FedEx Blog

FedEx Blog

Tuckered Out: A Hippo’s Story

January 20, 2011

FedEx flies all kinds of cargo. Animals are among the most interesting. I have flown sea turtles, horses, a variety of birds, and ferrets, and can now add a hippopotamus to that list. This is Tucker’s story. If he could write a sign, it would say, “Eight year old male hippo in need of a new home”. FedEx donated our services to move him from the Topeka zoo to the San Francisco zoo. Delivered under perfect flying conditions, Tucker is busily exploring his new surroundings.

Tucker’s story is as interesting as his journey. Born in captivity at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, he was destined to be relocated to the San Francisco zoo over a year ago, but the timing wasn’t right in San Francisco. Instead, he was transported to the Topeka zoo where he met a lovely mate. They fell in love and had a baby together on August 21, 2010. But this miracle of birth also proved to be Tucker’s downfall, for the Topeka zoo is not large enough to accommodate three hippos. Handler David Jaffe told me that while Tucker is a very docile animal, they were concerned he would inadvertently kill his baby by playing with him. Sadly, Tucker had worn out his welcome.

He was supposed to have been transported on November 30th, 2010, but this transportation fell through. With winter in full swing, an appeal was made for FedEx to fly him to San Francisco. FedEx agreed to transport him gratis as a hippotarian gesture. On January 6th, Captain Rich Fazio and First Officer Michael Michaud flew Tucker from Kansas City to Memphis. There, he patiently waited for First Officer Brian Donar and me to fly him to Oakland. His crate was then loaded onto a flatbed and trucked to the San Francisco zoo.

Tucker’s oversized crate was approximately 1 ½ times the size of a normal MD-11 pallet. Loaded with hay and food, he was as comfortable as any hippo can be under the circumstances. Attended by handlers David Jaffe and Scott Gamerl, and veterinarian Shirley Llizo, he was in good hands. Thankfully, our airplane was equipped with a rigid cargo barrier that kept Tucker’s distinct aroma confined to the upper cargo compartment.

Thanks to good weather, Tucker probably never knew he moved. He was a perfect passenger throughout our flight. Had he been upset, we definitely would have known since annoyed oversized animals tend to bounce airplanes. But Tucker did none of that. His handlers checked assured me our four thousand pound puppy was quite content. Only they would know.

On our initial descent into Oakland, the Oakland Center controller assigned a step-down altitude. To make it easier on Tucker’s ears, I had Brian request a constant descent because of our special cargo. The controller then asked if we had horses on board. Pleased to hear it was a hippo, he replied, “Cool.” From then on, we received special handling that never required us to level-off. Tucker’s information was passed from controller to controller to assure our arrival went smoothly.

I elected to use the full runway length so our deceleration was gradual. The taxi in went as smoothly as our taxi out. The SF zoo was very appreciative of FedEx’s service, and I was happy to be among those playing a part in his relocation. Far more people were involved in this operation than I will ever know, but this was a success because it was a team effort.

Single again, Tucker is now free to find a new mate while enjoying California’s moderate climate. San Francisco may not be Disney World, but it’s far better than winter in Topeka. As for FedEx – we again proved that we deliver the world on time.


    Cindy Hurn says:

    What a great story! I found the details about how you accomodated for Tucker’s ears the most interesting. If you hadn’t thought about this ahead of time, Tucker’s discomfort would have been frightening and extremely stressful. We hear stories of dolphins and porpoises who save drowning people at sea and we thing how cool is that? But the care you guys took to keep an animals’ ears from popping is just as cool. Well Done.

    Frank C says:

    Bravo Zulu to the Captain and Crew !!!

    Just “Perfect Handling” for such as Awesome Task!!!

    Amy says:

    A great story! Tucker was very fortunate to have a flight crew with a large heart. I am very proud of our corporation for it’s extra large heart to in caring for people and animals in need. Keep flying the colors!

    Donna says:

    I was able to see Tucker as he passed thru the Memphis Hub on January 6th. What an amazing story! It was a thrill to go home that day and tell my kids, “We flew a hippo today!” Great job to everyone involved!!

    Bill Stanek says:

    A “gratis as a hippotarian gesture”! Love it!!!

    So he left a baby in Topeka – what’s the visitation schedule? Do hippo paternal rights dictate more trips? 😉

    Necie 360596 says:

    Way to go to the Caption and Crew…Go FedEx!!

    Jaime Ramirez says:

    I was on hand to offload Tucker upon his arrival into OAKH. It was awesome and yet scary thing peeping through his crate and seeing a “tennis ball sized eye” looking back at you !…Welcome to the BAY AREA Tucker. =)

    Dan says:

    Weather our Packages are 2 lbs or 2000 lbs Fedex Crews take great care in delivering the package!
    Every team member should be proud in being part of all of the FedEx Families.

    Thank you Captain; We salute you and all crew members for always doing a great job for us here on the ground.

    Lisa-Marie says:

    Your story really touched my heart and made me smile. I am so proud of you guys. Such a thoughtful and sweet crew. Tucker deserved the best and it sounds like he got it. FedEx pilots rock 🙂

    Barbara A. says:

    Thank you for being so gentle with Tucker. Flying must feel weird and quite unnatural to them, not to mention the strange sounds from the aircraft. Your slow descent & gradual deceleration must’ve reduced Tucker’s stress a great deal. What a cool story and a great picture of Tucker!

    Lucy Luera says:

    Great and awesome accomplishment, on the team, great news to here Tucker is home safe. My question to you is this, how much did that transport cost? I guess the zoo’s can compensate and make up the cost, and also a tax write-off. Thanks LL

    Bruce Krever says:

    This is a great story. I especially loved your description of all the pains you took to ensure the softest landing possible. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

    Manoj Chaudhary says:

    Oh my god..thats really great…now we can say that we did this task of luck team…

    Diana Russell says:

    Wow, what a great story. Once again FEDEX, you have set the tone, on how giving back to the community should be. As for Tucker, I have seen you at my favorite park in Disney World and now you are here in my home town at the zoo that I saw my first Hippo at. Welcome.

    Greg Weidenhoffer says:

    Thanks for sharing this! I keep telling my friends and family about all of the unusual items FedEx ships and now I have something I can show them. Great story!

    Eileen F says:

    Great job….our pilots are the best! I hope Tucker did not have to be HIPPONITEZD to get on the plane! BZ everyone involed…

    Tom says:

    Great story and a fantastic job, why do you have a picture of my Mother-in-law on here.

    Jack Springer says:

    Having been involved in many,many animal shipments of all sorts in the Tiger days I can relate to this story very well. I congratulate the Flight crew with all sincerity for taking such special precaustions and considerations througout all phases of the flight.Few in our business realize how important it is to familiarize oneself of the uniqueness of the various animals when being transported by air especially regarding temperature settings,airflow, food,drink etc.
    You and the on-board handling team make us Proud to be FedEx !
    Thanks a million.

    Robyne says:

    What a great story..thanks for sharing it with us all. 🙂

    melany a says:

    Great story to start out the work week. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Bonnie Doss says:

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful story and Tucker’s picture. What an awesome experience this must have been for all involved. Perfect landing!!

    Kevin S says:

    Hip Hip Hooray!

    Mubasher Mohammed says:

    Just to top off the story from another post the hippo weighed 3,700 pounds.

    Great work keeping the flight stable !!!

    Robin Schaller says:

    After reading that this type of story, I’m always so proud so say I work for such a great company that would go thru the costs and special circumstances to make a trip like this possible. I am proud to say “I’m FedEx”

    Jenni says:

    Way to go! I actually got to meet Tucker back in October at Topeka Zoo, with my nephews from Alabama. Can’t wait to tell them Tucker made the ride beautifully and FEDEX made it happen! I love a happy ending!

    Wendy S. says:

    Great job and thanks for posting. I also tell family and friends that FedEx ships more than just boxes so now I can share this. It makes me proud to work for a company who cares.

    bonnie dungan says:

    WOW…what a story…is this for real??? No wonder I have a lot of family working for FedEx !!! Keep on truckin’ FedEx !!!!

    Sherry Thompson says:

    Great story, I would had love to see video of this great story. Fedex really does what ever it takes to get a job done well. congrulations to all in helping Tucker get to his new home. AWESOME FEDEX THE PURPLE PROMISE CAME THROUGH AGAIN!!!!!!!

    Phillip says:

    The zoo didn’t get a hippopotamus for Christmas but will get it in time for Valentine’s. Great Job!

    LaQuita says:

    WOW, what a great story. You all are FEDEX, Bravo Zulu! What I enjoyed most about this story is they way you prepared Tucker for his trip as to ensure his trip was an overall success and it was. This is what we do at FedEx we make all our customers experience outstanding.

    Cindy Nunn says:

    What a tale! I truly enjoyed the flow of the story. Very well written. Thanks for sharing.

    Juliana Lins Cruz says:

    Lovely story!!

    Cindy Leigh says:

    What a wonderful story! I’m adding it to my Facebook page so all my rescue friends can read it.

    Karyl M. says:

    Tucker was lucky to receive First Class Accomodations from a First Class Company “Fed Ex”. Another example that working together makes the world a better place.

    Veena Samuel says:

    A wonderful story indeed, which has once again made me proud of FedEx. Have added it to my Facebook page so that all my friends will know what a great company I work for!

    Shirley R. Davis says:

    Mr. Danielson’s, reporting of Tucker’s journey will make you proud to work for FEDEX. The care that was given to him in regards to the pressures of take off and landing show respect and caring to the crew’s oversize passenger. Bravo Zulu to the crew, and Tucker’s handlers. Thank you

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