Solly's plight captivated animal lovers and his death Friday left many in tears, with some blaming a vet who arrived too late.
"It started out as a happy story and now it's a tragic story. It's devastating," said Ruby Ferreira, manager of the game preserve lodge where the hippopotamus had been stuck in the swimming pool since Tuesday.
The 4-year-old hippo had been chased from his herd by dominant males when he wandered into the Monate Conservation Lodge and plopped into its 8-foot-deep pool. Although he was able to swim freely, he couldn't get out because the pool has no steps.
Lodge workers dubbed him Solly, and the hippo's plight captivated South Africans, with live TV broadcasts from the pool and newspaper headlines like "It's all systems go for the rescue of Solly the hippo."
Someone even set up a Twitter account on Solly's behalf and tweeted purported hippo quotes.
Then on Friday morning, the TV news carried a scrolling headline announcing the animal's death.
Solly's demise left several of those involved pointing fingers of blame.
Ferreira said a game capture team had been waiting since Thursday for a veterinarian to show up to tranquilize Solly and oversee the operation to hoist him out with a crane.
By early Friday, the hippo was showing signs of stress and was no longer able to stand in the pool, which had been drained of most of its water in preparation for the rescue.
Text and Images: AP
Image: A hippo is lifted from 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 the rescue operation got under way.