On the night of October 25, Zoo Basel welcomed a baby Hippo. Keepers aren’t sure if the calf is a female or a male, so it has not yet received a name.
Zookeepers suspected for several days that the birth was imminent. Hippo mom, Helvetia, was restless and moody. The day before the birth, Helvetia ate very little and preferred to stretch and stretch in the water.
As the keepers began their rounds on the morning of October 25, the discovered the calf had arrived. Although the weather was still warm and the water was not cold, keepers felt it was a bit too chilly for a newborn, so Helvetia and the calf were moved to the warm barn.
After spending several weeks tucked away with mom, the calf now has access to the public area of the exhibit.
The calf is learning to swim and hold its breath quite well under water. The 30 to 50-kilogram calf currently feeds exclusively on breastmilk, but in a few weeks keepers say it will begin to eat solid food.
The calf’s father, Wilhelm, continuously tries to catch a glimpse of the new little one, but protective mom, Helvetia, does not think it is time for the two to meet. If he comes close to her, she shoos him away with unmistakable head blows. Keepers say that this will settle with time, and as the calf grows, in a few weeks, the whole family will share their exhibit.
Zoo Basel keepers request that visitors approach the mother and calf as quietly as possible, in order to help them maintain the developing bond.
The little Hippo is the eleventh offspring of Wilhelm and Helvetia.
The Common Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), or hippo, is a mostly herbivorous mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa.
The Hippopotamus is semiaquatic, inhabiting rivers, lakes and mangrove swamps, where territorial bulls preside over a stretch of river and groups of five to thirty females and young. During the day, they remain cool by staying in the water or mud; reproduction and childbirth both occur in water. They emerge at dusk to graze on grasses. While Hippos rest near each other in the water, grazing is a solitary activity and Hippos are not territorial on land.
Despite their physical resemblance to pigs and other terrestrial even-toed ungulates, the closest living relatives of the Hippopotamidae are cetaceans (whales, porpoises, etc.).
The species is currently classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.