Hippo Gives Zoo Surprise Package
by Pensacola News journal, December 27, 2005
Even if there were rooms at the inn, the 3,500-pound Nile hippopotamus Cleopatra wouldn’t have fit.
The 20-year-old hippo gave birth somewhat unexpectedly on Christmas morning to a 50-pound calf that has followed her closer than a shadow ever since.
“We weren’t sure she was pregnant,” said Rob Free, a keeper at The Zoo Northwest Florida, where Cleopatra and her mate, 10-year-old Kiboko, have resided since April.
The two were spotted breeding before they left the animal park in Tampa’s Busch Gardens. Father and baby, who have been kept apart to keep the young calf safe, are expected to meet today.
For months, zoo officials watched Cleopatra’s expanding stomach getting closer to the ground. A few days before the holidays, she was a little moodier and a little more stubborn, said zoo spokeswoman Natalie Akin.
But with everyone getting a little stressed around the holidays, zoo officials still weren’t sure. Not to mention how difficult it would have been to perform a pregnancy test on a 3,500-pound hippo.
About 8 a.m. on Christmas Day, Free was about to feed Cleopatra her grains, nuts and fruits when he noticed that there was a lump about the size of an overnight duffel bag next to the hippo. It had the pinkish-gray hue.
“But obviously, it was not a part of Cleopatra,” he said.
When he realized it was a baby hippo, Free was ecstatic.
“Who else gets a hippo for Christmas?” he asked.
Zoo tradition dictates that whoever finds the baby gets to name it. Free, 38, said he will wait until the calf’s sex is determined.
Zoo officials expect to examine the baby hippo next week. Cleopatra, like most new hippo moms, is extremely protective and won’t let anyone near her baby.
Free said he wants to name it something Egyptian, like its mother, “and something I can pronounce.”
On Monday around noon, Cleopatra briefly got up from sleeping to eat from a bucket that Free held. The baby hippo was at her side.
“She’s a good mother,” Akin said.
Cleopatra nurses her baby every three hours underwater in the algae-filled pond that is part of the extensive hippo habitat at the Zoo. Akin said the baby looks to be in good health.
A baby pygmy hippo named Tonka was born at The Zoo in June 2001. The Zoo’s five pygmy hippos are on loan to zoos throughout the nation.
Hippos Celebrate Thanksgiving
by NBC10.com, Nov. 23, 2005
CAMDEN, N.J. — Button and Genny, the two hippopotamuses at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, N.J., observed Thanksgiving a day early.
No turkeys were invited to their Thanksgiving feast. The two vegetarians celebrated with cornucopias of fruits, vegetables and hay. They seemed to like the goodies more than the watermelon cornucopia they came in, and the carrots seemed to be one of the least popular goodies.
The two hippos munched away on their treats while aquarium visitors watched them chomp away.
The hippos are part of the aquarium’s West African River exhibit, which also includes porcupines and more than 20 species of African birds in an aviary.
Tortoise Adopts Baby Hippo
by Animal Activism, Jan. 8, 2005
A baby hippopotamus, swept into the Indian Ocean by the tsunami, is finally coming out of his shell thanks to the love of a 120-year-old tortoise. Owen, a 300kg, one-year-old hippo, was swept down the Sabaki River, into the ocean and then back to shore when the giant waves struck the Kenyan coast.
The dehydrated hippo was found by wildlife rangers and taken to the Haller Park animal facility in the port city of Mombasa.
Pining for his lost mother, Owen quickly befriended a giant male Aldabran tortoise named Mzee – Swahili for “old man”.
“When we released Owen into the enclosure, he lumbered to the tortoise which has a dark grey colour similar to grown up hippos,”
Sabine Baer, rehabilitation and ecosystems manager at the park, told Reuters on Thursday.
Haller Park ecologist Paula Kahumbu said the pair were now inseparable.
“After it was swept and lost its mother, the hippo was traumatised. It had to look for something to be a surrogate mother.
Fortunately, it landed on the tortoise and established a strong bond. They swim, eat and sleep together,” the ecologist added.
“The hippo follows the tortoise exactly the way it follows its mother. If somebody approaches the tortoise, the hippo becomes aggressive, as if protecting its biological mother,” Kahumbu added.
“The hippo was left at a very tender age. Hippos are social animals that like to stay with their mothers for four years.”
She said the hippo’s chances of survival in another herd were very slim, predicting that a dominant male would have killed him.
Officials are hopeful Owen will befriend a female hippo called Cleo, also a resident at the park.
Hippos in Congo at Brink of Extinction
by The Associated Press, September 2005
GLAND, Switzerland (AP) — Only 887 hippos are left in Congo, once home to the world’s largest population of the water-loving mammal, and they will be extinct in the African country, an international environmental group warned Monday.
Hippos are being killed by government soldiers, local militia and poachers, the World Wildlife Fund said. The meat is sold as food while teeth end up as part of the illegal ivory trade. Hippos fetch around $50 per animal.
The latest aerial survey puts the hippopotamus population in northeastern Congo’s Virunga National Park down to under 1,000 animals, compared to some 29,000 in 1974. The last survey in 2003 counted 1,307.
The continued presence of soldiers and armed groups in the park — a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a 400-mile-long boundary — has made it difficult to protect the animals, the WWF said.
“Soldiers are left in the park without being fed nor paid and that’s a recipe for disaster,” said Marc Languy, who heads WWF’s regional program.
Following a five-year war in this central African country, the postwar transitional government has had little success in calming the east, where killings, looting and rapes continue almost unabated.
Conducted last month, the hippopotamus survey was carried out by the Congolese Institute for Conservation of Nature, the European Union and WWF.
The disappearance of hippos also triggers serious secondary effects for the population, the WWF said. Because hippo dung provides vital nutrients for the fish in Lake Edward, its absence has led to a rapid decline of the lake’s fish stocks.
“If the government does not take the hippo situation in Virunga seriously, this will not only lead to an environmental disaster, but also to an economic crisis for local communities,” said Languy.