"He was not as perky this morning, more agitated, like he was irritated. I think because he wanted to get out of the pool," Ferreira told South Africa Press Association. "We've been waiting for the vets and I think they were just a bit too late."
Then, just as veterinarian Dr. Alex Lewis arrived, the hippo tried one last time to get to his feet. He couldn't make it. Exhausted, he dropped his head into the knee-deep water, making a splash, then lay still.
Wildlife rescue expert Simon Prinsloo was in tears as he confirmed to The Associated Press that Solly was dead. Only minutes earlier, Prinsloo had been pouring water from a hose onto the hippo in the warm and humid climate.
Ferreira said hippos are sensitive creatures and Solly's stress level had probably been rising since he was forced from his group, called a pod, and took shelter in the pool. Once inside, he couldn't get out, adding to his stress.
"It all just added up and added up," she said.
A wildlife activist cried as Solly's lifeless body was hoisted from the pool, with the vet standing on it, and placed in an orange animal trailer.
When reporters questioned Lewis about not arriving earlier, the vet said he couldn't have saved the animal anyway because he was in such poor condition from the stress over fighting for a position in his herd. Lewis said he told the lodge owners to feed the hippo to build up his strength, and workers had been giving him hay and grass since Tuesday.
Prinsloo said Solly was lucky to have stayed alive as long as he did because most hippos don't survive fights with dominant males.
Doreen Cronje, a guest at the lodge, said she, like everyone gathered for the rescue, had hoped for a happier outcome.
"Especially here in South Africa, we care a lot about our animals," she said.
Image: A hippo seen in a swimming pool on Friday Aug. 24, 2012, at the Monate Conservation Lodge, near Modimolle, South Africa, after being trapped there for three days. The young hippo had plunged into the deep pool on Tuesday after being chased off from his herd by male members seeking dominance, wandered into the lodge's camp and fell into the pool. The animal died just before a rescue operation got under way.