For Happy the hippo, moving from Washington to Milwaukee has been a pleasure

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After living at the National Zoo for his entire life, Happy the hippo was sent to live at the Milwaukee County Zoo in Wisconsin. There he not only has a newer exhibit, but there are two female hippos for him to interact with.

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By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 12, 2009

MILWAUKEE -- So everybody's in the pool: Happy on one side of the "howdy" gate, the girls a few feet away on the other.

There's warm water splashing from an orange hose, planters with tropical foliage, and the three Nile hippos are facing each other like singles at a sports bar. The only thing missing is the Packers game on TV.

Then a zookeeper lobs an apple chunk in Happy's end of the pool.

In the past, at Washington's National Zoo, Happy the hippopotamus was a 5,500-pound eating machine. Just say "lettuce" and he'd come a-rumbling.

But that was more than a month ago, before he was trucked off to the Milwaukee County Zoo to make more room for elephants in Washington. And before he met the girls, Patti and Puddles, the Milwaukee zoo's svelte mother/daughter duo.

Now, amid the soothing water, the shimmering turquoise of the pool, and the ladies, the apple is, uh, ignored.

National Zoo? Washington?

Please.

Six weeks after he left town, Happy, 28, the beloved fixture at the National Zoo, who was born there in the closing days of the Carter administration, and who had never lived anywhere else, is doing fine in Milwaukee.

"He seems like definitely a different animal than when I met him in D.C.," Milwaukee zookeeper Erin Dowgwillo said.

Before Happy arrived here, word was that he was sensitive, anxious, skittish. He tended to pace, and was easily alarmed. He didn't like people in hats. He once sneezed on a senator. He was also a little overweight. Keepers here worried how he would adapt.

In Washington, he had lived alone since the death of his mother, Arusha, in 2004. He had elephants and capybaras as neighbors, but they had their own lives. Sure, he had indoor and outdoor pools, murals on the walls of his compound, a devoted keeper who loved him.


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© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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