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One Hundred San Diego Zoo Guests Witness Hippo Birth!


A bouncing baby Hippo was born yesterday at the San Diego Zoo in front of about a hundred Zoo guests. The crowd had gathered during the mother’s two-hour labor.  Then, at 11:30 a.m., the mother, Funani, gave birth in the pool. The calf quickly popped up out of the water and took its first breath. It soon was swimming around its mother, which appeared a bit tired from labor.


Photo credits: Ken Bohn / San Diego Zoo

The hippo birth is something San Diego Zoo keepers have been hoping for. Two years ago, male hippo Otis came from the Los Angeles Zoo to meet Funani at the San Diego Zoo. There were fireworks right away as the Hollywood hippo and Funani, who had been in the exhibit for more than a decade, struggled for dominance. But after a cooling-off period and re-introduction, they became an affectionate couple. Otis recently garnered national attention when a photo of him “smiling” went viral.

Keepers began to see breeding between the two in April 2010. Typically, a hippo’s gestation period lasts 8 months. Otis, age 36, was taken off exhibit a few weeks ago because he has not fathered a calf at the San Diego Zoo and keepers did not know how he would react to a newborn. Funani, age 26, is an experienced mother that had three babies with Jabba, the previous male hippo in the exhibit. Otis was brought to the Zoo in hopes of diversifying the hippo population. The calf does not yet have a name and its sex is not yet known.

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 ivory (found in the canine teeth) and habitat loss. Hippos can still be found in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

The 100-acre San Diego Zoo is dedicated to the conservation of endangered species and their habitats. The organization focuses on conservation and research work around the globe, educates millions of individuals a year about wildlife and maintains accredited horticultural, animal, library and photo collections.  The Zoo also manages the 1,800-acre San Diego Zoo Safari Park (historically referred to as the Wild Animal Park), which includes a 900-acre native species reserve, and the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.  The important conservation and science work of these entities is supported in part by The Foundation of the Zoological Society of San Diego.