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Novelty singer welcomes new hippo to zoo

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OK (KFOR/CNN) - "I want a hippopotamus for Christmas” is a song known around the world. It originated in Oklahoma.

Gayla Peevey was 10-years-old when she recorded it back in 1953. The song debuted on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

The song became so popular that kids all over Oklahoma donated pennies, nickels and dimes. Businesses chipped in too.

It was on that Christmas in 1953 that the Oklahoma City Zoo got their first hippo. Her name was Matilda.

"I got to greet her and of course she was too big for our garage, so I donated her to the Oklahoma City Zoo and she lived there for 45 years, I think," Peevey said.

Fast forward to this month's singalong and a very special announcement. The Oklahoma City Zoo got another hippo just in time for Christmas.

It’s a moment that Peevey says makes her feel nostalgic.

"I got to greet the very first hippo 64 years ago and who would ever dream that I'd have a chance to greet the new hippo this many years later," she said.

Francesca, a 26-year-old pygmy hippo, made it to Oklahoma through conservation partnership with the San Diego Zoo.

Francesca is already on display and stealing the hearts of Oklahoma children, making Christmas wishes true once again.

Pygmy hippos are listed as endangered with fewer than three-thousand in the wild.

Peevey says, she loves that the song has created a platform for her to speak out about hippos and conservation.

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