Mama Cuddles, a beloved hippopotamus and one of the longest San Francisco Zoo residents, had to be euthanized today after a long battle with arthritis.
The 46-year-old hippo had been diagnosed with chronic arthritis in her hind legs in 2005. Since then, she has received a daily dose of medication and pain medicine, according to zoo officials.
On Tuesday, Cuddles was found to be having a difficult time controlling her hind legs and was not walking or moving well. When she did not improve after receiving care and pain medication and only weakened more, zookeepers and veterinarians had no choice but to euthanize Cuddles.
"One of the hardest choices the veterinarian staff and keepers have to make is deciding when it's time to euthanize an animal," said zoo chief veterinarian Jacqueline Jencek.
Cuddles arrives at the San Francisco Zoo in 1963 from the Philadelphia Zoological Gardens as a 1-year-old. She birthed 16 calves over the years and zoo officials said one of her favorite treats was munching pumpkins during the Boo at the Zoo event around Halloween.
According to zoo officials, a hippopotamus has an average life span of 35 years but can live up to 45 years in captivity.