Homosassa Springs State Park is known for its natural Florida look. Throughout the wildlife park, visitors can see animals that are native to the state -- from alligators and bobcats to deer and, of course, manatees.
But the star on Friday was a 6,000-pound exotic mammal that is not a native to the state.
Trisha Fowler works at the park and says, "He was at this park before it was taken over by the state. When it was taken over by the state he was given leeway to stay at a Florida State Park even though he's an exotic species and he has his own Florida citizenship."
'Lu' the hippopotamus is 53 years old and on Friday he celebrated with guests of the park.
Students from Rock Crusher Elementary school signed a birthday card and even brought some gifts for 'Lu'.
Christine Carey gave her son Jayden the day off to see 'Lu' on this special day.
"He's like, 'Can I miss school to come here?' So he's missing school to see the hippo."
Cindy Rushing and her boyfriend Mike traveled from Georgia just to see 'Lu'. Rushing has a passion for hippos.
"When I was six I dug a hole behind the chicken pen and I put water in it and got some weeds and I went inside and told my mom I am six now and I'm ready for my hippo and she said no way and I said I'm ready so I was really disappointed I didn't get a hippo."
But today, Rushing got a chance to sing Happy Birthday to her favorite animal.
At the age of 53, 'Lu' has already outlived his life span of a hippo in the wild. That's because male hippos only live to be about 30 years old because of competition.
But here in his private lagoon... 'Lu' is surrounded by adoring fans.
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