Hippo Death Raises Concerns

AFTER THE FALL — An immobilized Ah-he at the side of the road. The hippo was dead by the next morning, and the entire incident raised questions about the competence of Taiwan’s private zoos. Photo: CNA

The gruesome death of An-he, an 18-year-old hippopotamus and the star attraction at privately owned Skyzoo, from injuries sustained from a fall from a moving truck, shined a spotlight on the questionable animal care in Taiwan’s estimated 37 private zoos. Animal-rights and environmental groups have raised doubts about Taiwan’s capacity to regulate the industry as well as owners’ ability to care for large, exotic and possibly rare or dangerous animals.

While 1,190-kilogram Ah-he was being transported to a temporary habitat in Taichung from Skyzoo in Miaoli Country on December 28, it leapt from the moving truck, colliding with a parked car as it fell and suffering serious injuries. It reportedly lay on the roadside, unable to move, before a crane and large container were finally located and put into service to lift the hippo back onto a truck – only for the crane’s cable to break, causing the animal to drop two meters to the ground. Ah-he was eventually transported to a pond on a farm where it was found dead the next morning. An autopsy conducted by the Taipei Zoo revealed that the hippo’s lungs had burst through its diaphragm.

Skyzoo has been targeted for violations in the past, and it reportedly did not have a license for Ah-he as required by law.