FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 25, 2013
ELLIE SCHILLER HOMOSASSA SPRINGS WILDLIFE STATE PARK CELEBRATES HIPPO’S BIRTHDAY
~Local students, park
visitors wish Florida’s only resident hippo a Happy 53rd ~
World-famous Lu the Hippo is serenaded by students and park visitors for his birthday at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
HOMOSASSA SPRINGS - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park celebrated Lu the hippopotamus’ 53rd birthday with two special birthday parties today.
“Lu is world-famous and we are proud that he calls Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park home,” said park manager Art Yerian. “Lu delights visitors of all ages and helps us engage our visitors in learning about Florida’s natural environment.”
At the first party, more than 250 students from Rock Crusher Elementary School sang the birthday song to Lu and gave him a bread cake with the words “Lucky Lu!” on the cake. Park Volunteer Vicky Iozzia lead visitors in singing an original song she wrote for this special occasion. Every year she adds a new stanza for his latest birthday. The second party was 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 San Diego Zoo in January 1960. He weighed 90 pounds at birth and now weighs over 6,000 pounds. A vegetarian, Lu consumes 15 pounds of alfalfa hay, four scoops of herbivore diet and a five-gallon bucket of vegetables and fruits every day.
A fixture at Homosassa Springs since 1964, Lu was a movie and television star with the Ivan Tors Animal Actors troupe. Ivan Tors wintered his animal actors at Homosassa Springs when the park was in private ownership. His credits include 1960s movies Daktari and Cowboy in Africa, and television specials such as the Art Linkletter Show and a Herb Alpert Special. He also starred in a Union Carbide commercial.
For more than four decades, Lu has been a mainstay among the animals at Homosassa Springs. When the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Park Service purchased the former attraction in 1989, the state planned to shift the emphasis from exotic animals to native Florida wildlife and find homes for all of the exotic species, including Lu. Public support led the state to grant Lu a special Florida citizenship in 1991, allowing him to stay at the park.
Lu awaits his bread and icing birthday cake.