The San Diego Zoo welcomed a newborn Hippopotamus calf to its Lost Forest habitat on September 22.
The curious baby is reported to be healthy and is staying close to mother, Funani. This is the 12th calf born to Funani and father, Otis. Keepers will give the calf a name when they are able to confirm the sex. For now, guests of the San Diego Zoo can hope to catch a glimpse of the baby with Funani during normal operating hours.
The Common Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), or Hippo, is a large, mostly herbivorous and aggressive mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae, the other being the Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis).
Although the Hippo is currently only classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List, their habitat has been greatly reduced over the last 200 years. Even more devastating to Hippo populations is the current trade in illegal ivory. Following the 1989 ban on Elephant ivory, demand for Hippo ivory has sharply increased. The large canines that Hippos use to protect themselves are made of the same material as Elephants’ tusks. In fact, they are slightly softer and easier to carve than Elephant ivory, making them even more appealing to ivory buyers. As a result, Hippo numbers are rapidly decreasing.
According to the Zoo, if Hippos were to disappear completely, the effect on their habitat would be catastrophic. The large amount of waste that Hippos produce provides important nutrients for their African ecosystem. In addition, many species of fish eat the dung and feed on the small parasites that live on the Hippos’ skin.