11 June 2024

We are sad to share that London Zoo’s much-loved male pygmy hippo, Thug, died on the morning of Wednesday 5 June.

At the age of 28, Thug was succumbing to age-related mobility issues that were affecting his quality of life, showing signs of reduced appetite, reduced mobility and lethargy. Lately, keepers noticed Thug was not his usual happy self, showing increasingly less energy and interest in his surroundings. Under the dedicated care of ZSL’s veterinary team and his keepers, Thug’s condition had remained manageable but recent spinal radiographs indicated a deterioration in his health. An assessment was performed under general anaesthesia, which confirmed the extent of his spinal deterioration and ill health. To prevent further suffering, it was decided that the kindest outcome for Thug was euthanasia.

This is a very sad time for all who worked closely with Thug: he was much loved by his keepers, the veterinary team, and all our visitors at London Zoo. Thug’s name was an intentionally ironic one, as he was truly an affectionate and gentle giant. He had lived at London Zoo since 1998, most recently sharing his Into Africa home with pygmy hippo Amara, to whom keepers will giving plenty of extra attention over the coming days.

Following post-mortem, some of Thug’s cells will be cryopreserved by our partners, Nature’s SAFE, so that his genetics can support in the future preservation of his species - which is classed as a priority for conservation action by ZSL’s EDGE (Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered) Programme.

He will be much missed by ZSL staff at London Zoo.