North America's oldest pygmy hippopotamus Hannah Shirley is celebrating a new milestone: her 50th birthday.
The pygmy hippo, who lives in managed care at the San Diego Humane Society’s Ramona Wildlife Center, celebrated her golden jubilee Wednesday with the center's staff and volunteers at a golden-themed birthday party. Despite being a nocturnal animal, Shirley took part and enjoyed the celebrations, the wildlife center said.
"The big celebration on Nov. 15, 2023, included presents and a cake made out of a watermelon base, papaya “frosting,” spaghetti squash, sweet grain and Purina Nicker Makers Horse Treat sprinkles," said the center in a news release.
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Shirley has lived at the wildlife center since 2002, when she was rescued from a residential backyard in Escondido about 35 miles north of San Diego, according to the news release and is one of 15 wild ambassador animals there.
She was taken to The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center at the time of her rescue. The facility was later acquired by the San Diego Humane Society in September 2020, who then assumed Shirley's responsibility, said the news release.
America's oldest pygmy weighs about 500 pounds and lives in a 13,000-square-foot paddock, which has a swimming pool and natural pond to play in, said the wildlife center.
"She enjoys a deservingly pampered life by Project Wildlife’s team that includes back rubs, sprinkler showers and lots of food-related enrichment activities," said the center.
A staff- favorite, Shirley is "treated like royalty every day," said Andy Blue, campus director at San Diego Humane Society's Ramona Wildlife Center.
Blue also said that Shirley's golden jubilee "is an incredible milestone for an animal who wouldn’t typically surpass 30 in the wild.”
Saman Shafiq is a trending news reporter for USA TODAY. Reach her at email@example.com and follow her on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter @saman_shafiq7.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Oldest pygmy hippo in US celebrates golden 50th birthday: Watch