DUBLIN Zoo's only female hippo has died after she swallowed a tennis ball that was thrown into her enclosure by a visitor.
Linda, who was 28 years old and had been in Dublin Zoo since she was a baby, fell ill on Sunday and died. Captive female hippos can live to 35-40 years. A post mortem revealed the ball had blocked Linda's intestine, causing her death.
The Zoo has appealed to all visitors to comply with its rules, stressing the importance of not throwing anything food or otherwise to the animals.
"We don't sell tennis balls in the zoo so it had to have been brought in. You could see it clearly inside her gut and was totally blocking up her intestine.
"There are signs up everywhere all over the zoo, yet people still keep feeding the animals. Nothing like this has happened before," said a spokesperson for the zoo.
"The staff here are very upset as she has been here for so long. It is especially distressing because of the way she died."
Linda was born on Valentine's Day, 1974 at Whipsnade Wild Animal Park in the UK and she arrived in Dublin Zoo on November 13, 1975.
During her time in Dublin she produced seven young. Her most recent, Hoovie, is 13 months old.