The World's Oldest Hippo
She was standing under a misting spray in a concrete shed under a steel roof. Thought to be possibly the oldest hippopotamus in captivity, certainly far older than any hippo in the wild, she was miserable. Arthritis is common among all aged mammals, when it acts up she becomes especially cranky and prefers to stay in here, where the water is cool and fresh and the sun does not beat down. I wondered, as I looked in through metal bars, if this creature was thinking about her past- memories, regrets- was the ideal of a life lived free in a wild river her day-dream? Or had she spent her entire existence in captivity, content to ease her pain in this little shack? She glared at me, a hippo usually is not friendly with the hairless apes. I sensed that she had lived enough, and yet still lived on, watching and waiting for the end. But it would be foolish of me to project those human thoughts and desires onto a different species. Perhaps it was that she had seen enough of me.
Illustration derived from a photograph by Kim Kessler