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Prague Zoo Hippo Survives Floods

August 18, 2002

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PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) _ Zookeepers in Prague lured a hippopotamus out of its hiding place in the elephants’ pavilion on Saturday, thrilled to find the animal had survived last week’s devastating floods.

The 18-year-old hippo, named Slavek, was spotted only Friday, days after the animal disappeared in the chaos of raging waters at the Zoological Garden.

``For us, it was a great surprise to find him,″ said zoo director, Petr Fejk. ``He was very angry.″ But he did not stop eating, Fejk said.

Slavek was one of two hippos missing and feared dead in the flooding, which killed scores of animals, including 80 birds, an elephant, a gorilla, a lion and a bear.

On Saturday zookeepers managed to lure him out of the second-story elephants’ pavilion into a ground-level corral, no mean feat since hippos can be fearsome when angered.

Zookeepers also planned to move three female elephants back into their home. The three have been chained to trees since they were rescued.

Their 35-year old male companion Kadir had to be put to death because zoo officials were unable to move him to higher ground before the water reached his head.

On Saturday, the zoo was covered in mud, some of it ankle-deep, where the floodwaters had receded. Its trees and bushes were gray with dust and the grass was soggy and littered with broken glass.

Around some buildings, such as the monkey pavilion, trash cans, debris and trees were floating on the stagnant yellowish floodwater.

``What’s ahead of us, is cleanup, disinfection and cleanup again,″ Fejk said. ``We will start to pick up trees, pieces of large wooden objects and remove mud.″

Two sea lions were still missing, and Fejk said one has already swum all the way to neighboring Germany.

He said his biggest loss is the 6-year old gorilla Pong, brought to the zoo last year, that has most likely drowned inside the monkey pavilion.

``I myself have gone through that pavilion,″ Fejk said. ``I walked in chest-high water and if he was still alive, I would have found him.″

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