On 3 May, a female hippo was born at Basel Zoo. Hippo cow Helvetia is already an experienced mother, which could be seen during the relatively peaceful birth that took place in the heated indoor pool. Both mother and calf have now made their first trip out into the outdoor enclosure.
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The cool temperatures in May made the indoor pen much more appealing for Helvetia (29) leading up to the birth, so she gave birth to her calf in the heated indoor pool.
She stayed in the Africa house for the first few weeks after giving birth and did not want to leave the pool. On 1 June, she leisurely padded out of the pen, followed by her daughter Serena, and slid into the little river in the outdoor enclosure.
The new father is 30-year-old Wilhelm. The imposing bull and Helvetia get along very well most of the time. However, Helvetia will not let him near her calf yet and is proving to be a protective mother.
Visitors may need to be slightly patient, but with a little luck they will be able to see the small family in the outdoor enclosure. The Africa house is still closed at the moment.
A natural water birth
Hippos give birth and feed their young entirely in the water. This means of getting to their mother's teats and that sought-after milk demands a lot of energy from a newborn calf. After just a few mouthfuls, the calf must go back to the surface for air. They often have to interrupt their mealtimes more than ten times to resurface to breathe. This special behaviour observed in hippos comes from the fact that, in the wild, being in a river or a watering hole is the safest place for them. They largely spend their days relaxing in the water or on the banks. Only when evening has set in and it is dark do they properly go on land in search of feeding grounds. They then spend the entire night eating before making their way back to the safety of their watery homes before sunrise.
The common hippopotamus or the Nile hippopotamus?
These mammals that weigh well into the tonnes used to be known as Nile hippopotamuses, and this name is still sometimes used colloquially today. They are now known as common hippopotamuses, and they have not been found in the Nile for a long time. The last reliable sightings of hippos in the Nile area are from the early 1800s.