Zoo Buddy: Meet Monroe - not the city, the hippo!

Meet Monroe! He's a hippo at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo in Monroe.
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 7:24 AM CST
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MONROE, La. (KNOE) - We highlight one cool dude in this week’s Zoo Buddy segment! Monroe is a hippo at the Louisiana Purchase Gardens and Zoo. Hippos have immense strength, but Monroe also has a sweet side with one of his handlers, zookeeper Stephanie McManus.

“Basically, what you’re going to see today is our zookeeper working with her animal, which we call conditioning,” explains General Curator Lisa Taylor. “And we promote this with all our zookeepers so that the veterinarian and the zookeeper can touch them in certain situations to find out how close we can get to them and administer medications and see if they’ve got anything going on with their mouths, hooves, feathers, paws or anything like that. This is a conditioning tool and Stephanie has mastered it with Monroe.”

He’s 10 years old and was born in Poland. Taylor said hippos are one of the top five most dangerous animals in the world.

“He has a bond and a trust with Stephanie to where she uses positive reinforcement to get him to open his mouth and touch all of his teeth because hippos usually have issues with their teeth in their older years and so it’s a good tool for the veterinarian to see what’s going on with their teeth,” explains Taylor. “We don’t recommend this for just any zookeeper, it takes a lot of work, trust, and time, and it does not happen overnight.”

Taylor says hippos are very social animals.

“I’m in love with him,” laughed McManus. “Hippopotamus is an old Greek word it means “river horse” they can live to around 30-years-old, their hide is 2 inches thick, and they can run about 30 to 35 miles per hour (mph) in small spurts but either way they’ll catch up. He’s food driven and he’s very social to me. He loves having visitors, he’ll start showing off for crowds.”

Monroe’s enclosure is located right near the splash pad, so come say hi! If you catch a glimpse of his mouth, you’ll notice he’s got some bottom teeth that stick straight out.

“Monroe is a male and those guys are very territorial in the wild and you can see the teeth and how powerful they are,” says Taylor. “They’ll cut other hippos fighting over territory. Hippos are very social animals in the wild they live in large groups, and a lot of people don’t realize this but hippos are nocturnal animals, so they typically graze at nighttime when it’s cooler. They will actually leave the rivers, the ponds, wherever they are and head to the plains where they eat the grass and they leave these large trails that other animals can follow back to the water.”

Taylor says sometimes visitors think Monroe is bleeding when they see a pinkish liquid on him, but it’s just his version of SPF!

“Hippos also have a unique chemical that gets emitted like our sweat, and our sweat is clear but their sweat is pink and it’s used as a sunscreen for a hippo because they can easily burn,” says Taylor.

The zoo is open every day of the week between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.