When some of our animals reach retirement age and are no longer comfortable shifting in and out of their habitats, we move them to a special home designed for their comfort, where dedicated keepers care for their every need away from the public eye. Our beloved South American tapir Honeydew lived her golden years behind the scenes where she was pampered daily. She recently passed away due to age-related health issues – and impressively, she lived to be the nation’s oldest tapir in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Honeydew would have celebrated her 38th birthday this month. Lovingly referred to as “Princess” Honeydew, she received the royal treatment from her keepers, who went above and beyond to ensure she had the best possible care throughout her geriatric years. And her birthday is one they’d never forget. Her care team was diligent about making her indulgent birthday cakes each year to show her just how much she was loved. Honeydew was also constantly pampered with brushes, baths, special foot care, leisurely swims in her personal pool, and of course tons of love and attention.
Her keepers have shared some of their favorite Honeydew moments as we say farewell to this sweet girl:
- She would dramatically flop over for belly rubs, which were her favorite.
- You could tell when she was really happy when she would close her eyes and wrinkle up her snout.
- She would get wild and excited when it was bath time.
- Her snoot. It was always moving, smelling, exploring and seeing what trouble she could get into.
- She LOVED visitors and thrived off of attention. The more we doted on her, the happier Princess Honeydew was.
- Animals like her define zookeepers. It didn’t matter if you had been her keeper for years or you just met her, she made an impression.
Our keepers were always willing to give her their hearts and do whatever she needed, and we couldn’t be more proud of that! Honeydew will be dearly missed by all of us at the Dallas Zoo.
I’m sad that she has passed but she seemed to have been a wonderful animal and quite a character.