The newest river hippopotamus at the San Diego Zoo is just a few days old and already has an online following. The calf was born on Monday, March 23 at 6:30 a.m. with animal care staff observing. Mother Funani has had the main hippo exhibit to herself the last two weeks in anticipation of the calf’s birth.
Mom and baby are doing fine and animal care staff witnessed the calf nursing on several occasions. Funani, who is 30 years old, has raised four other hippos at the San Diego Zoo – three females and most recently a male, named Adhama, born January 26, 2011. The sex of the newest calf has not yet been determined, as keepers and vets have not been able to get a close enough look at the animal.
Hippo calves are estimated to weigh about 50 pounds at birth and they typically nurse for about eight months. The baby will likely stay very close to Funani during the first several weeks.
The hippopotamus is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, known as the IUCN. The primary threats to hippos are illegal and unregulated hunting, for meat and the ivory found in the canine teeth, and habitat loss. Hippos can still be found in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
“If people come out to view the baby, patience will be rewarded,” said John Michel, senior animal keeper at the San Diego Zoo. “Guests may have to wait sometimes as long as half an hour, but the calf will wake up and start moving to deeper water, and mom will start to push it back up to shallow water.”
Guests interested in seeing the hippo calf should also check out the activities happening during the Zoo’s annual Play Days celebration. Starting Saturday, March 28, the event, themed “Be Spotted,” will highlight the Zoo’s plants and animals with spots of all sorts,including the jaguars in Elephant Odyssey, the serval near the African rock kopje, and spot-necked otters and spot-nosed guenons in the lower Ituri forest area. Animal keepers, horticulturists and zoo staff will help connect the dots about spots and share information about the importance of these markings for camouflage or as diversions from predators, and how sometimes the spots serve as a warning to other creatures.
Dr. Zoolittle will debut his new show exploring spots and dots, and the Zoo’s costume characters will be at the Koalafornia Boardwalk for meet-and-greets with guests. And new this year, The Sand Band will keep toes tapping with their musical fun.
Say carrots! The Easter Bunny will also be returning to the San Diego Zoo, March 21 through April 5, 2015, and guests can hop on the lap of Peter and Paula Cottontail, who will trade off taking photos in the basket-shaped photo booth in front of Skyfari East.
While guests are visiting during Play Days, they’re encouraged to interact with the Zoo on social media by taking their photo at designated selfie spots located around the Zoo and tagging them with the hashtags #sdzselfiespot and #sandiegozoo. Or visitors can enter the Spotted Photo Challenge by submitting their best photos of the Zoo’s spotted animals on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #sdzspots.
Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.