FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 26, 2012
STATE PARK CELEBRATES LU THE HIPPO’S 52ND BIRTHDAY
~State park and local children host birthday parties for Florida’s only resident hippo~
Lu the hippo enjoys his birthday cake during his 52nd birthday party today at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
Lu the hippo listens intently while he is serenaded with his custom birthday song.
“Lu has been a longtime resident of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park and has many fans, locally and from around the world,” said Park Manager Art Yerian. “There is an international club for people who love hippos called the Hippo-Lot-of-Us Club and members attend Lu’s birthday celebration every year.”
This morning, 531 local students from Lecanto Primary School joined park staff to wish Lu a happy 52nd birthday. The students joined in singing an original birthday song written and performed by park volunteer Vicky Iozzia. Each year, Vicky adds another stanza for his latest birthday. The children and other park visitors enjoyed fruit punch and sampling the hundreds of cupcakes brought in by park volunteers, while Lu enjoyed a specially made birthday cake, courtesy of the park’s citizen support organization.
In the afternoon, Lu enjoyed another birthday cake at his second party, held during the park’s daily alligator and hippopotamus educational program. Visitors signed a giant birthday card to wish Lu a happy birthday, and Lu's fans around the world can send him a birthday greeting on his Facebook page.
Lu, an African Hippopotamus, was born at the San Diego Zoo on Jan. 26, 1960. He weighed 90 pounds at birth and now weighs more than 6,000 pounds. A vegetarian, Lu consumes 15 pounds of alfalfa hay and a five gallon bucket of vegetables and fruit every day. His specially-made birthday cakes consist of bread with icing on top.
A fixture at Homosassa Springs since 1964, Lu was a movie and television star with the Ivan Tors Animal Actors troupe, which wintered at the park while it was in private ownership. His credits include the 1960s movies "Daktari" and "Cowboy in Africa," and television specials such as the "Art Linkletter Show" and "Herb Alpert Special."
For more than four decades, Lu has been a mainstay among the animals at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service purchased the attraction in 1989, and after public support led the state to grant Lu special Florida citizenship in 1991, he was allowed to stay at the park. Lu has delighted local residents and park visitors ever since.