(JOHANNESBURG) — People in South Africa were expecting to cheer the rescue Friday morning of a young hippopotamus named “Solly” that was stuck for four days at the bottom of a swimming pool, but instead they were disappointed to learn that the hippo died before he could be saved.
“It’s devastating,” Monate Conservation Lodge manager Ruby Ferreira told the The Times newspaper. “He was not as perky this morning, more agitated, like he was irritated.”
Ferreira and staff at the private game lodge north of Johannesburg had been watching over Solly, a 4-year-old bull, since Tuesday when they say he wandered onto their property after being chased away from his herd by older bulls.
When Solly stepped into the 8-foot deep pool for a swim, it was too deep for him to get back out. A team of conservationists and veterinarians drained the pool enough to allow Solly to stand, and pictures and video of the stranded hippo made headlines across the country. The game park received offers from a business and members of the public to help pay for the rescue.
“One man called to say his daughter wouldn’t sleep until I listened to her plan to save the hippo,” rescue volunteer Andre Snyman from Eblockwatch told reporters.
Solly was expected to be tranquilized and lifted from the pool with a crane Friday morning, but Ferreira said he died shortly before the veterinarians arrived to begin the rescue operation. Ferreira believes the animal was dealing with mounting stress levels and gave up after being stranded in an unnatural environment for too long.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Barbie Latza Nadeau, Livia Borghese and Joshua Berlinger, CNN
Billy Hallowell, Deseret News
Dave Gilbert, CNN