Evansville, IN - "She passed away peacefully-- no stress that we could visibly see."
That seemingly calm goodbye is what Mesker Park Zoo Director Amos Morris was hoping for when he made the decision to humanely euthanize one of Evansville's most well-known residents.
"She basically just laid down and went to sleep, no struggling, no kicking no vocalizing."
Donna, a Nile hippopotamus, came to the zoo in august 1956. She gave birth to 8 children and outlived all of them. Clearly, a strong lady. She's been the subject of many news stories over the years, but this was the last time WFIE's cameras captured the 62-year-old video taken yesterday in her pool. But as Donna's birthdays added up, Morris says, her health declined. And after more than a year of evaluation with the zoo's veterinarian and other employees, he decided it was time to say goodbye.
"What I want people to do is remember Donna in her heyday in her vibrance. She lived a wonderful life here."
But not everyone has supported Donna's humane euthanasia. Morris says he's heard the claims that Donna wasn't that sick, that this was about money. But he says his only motive was to humanely react to her severe arthritis and renal failure. And now he wants everyone to celebrate a long life, lived mostly at Mesker Park Zoo.
"She set a record as the oldest living hippo in the world. That's a huge statement, the world. We should be celebrating that aspect of it. The keeper staff should be proud of the work that they have done and should not feel badly because she lived a fulfilled life."
The zoo is accepting memorial contributions, which they say may go toward an exhibit, statue or a kids play area.
A necropsy is being done to find out all of Donna's medical conditions and some of her tissue will go to research.
WFIE via CNN Newssource