September 13, 2021 (COLORADO SPRINGS) – Cheyenne Mountain Zoo today announced the name of its baby hippo with a video featuring the calf’s mom, Zambezi [zam-BEE-zee] making the big reveal.
Keepers set up an extra-special breakfast of carrots, oranges and hay for Zambezi in the shape of her calf's new name. As the video plays in reverse, the baby’s name, Omo [OH-moh], is revealed!
CMZoo staff voted on the baby’s name and, like his mom and aunt, the baby was named after a river in Africa. The seasonal flooding of the Omo River is vital for food cultivation by the indigenous groups that live along it. Water conservation is an important focus of Water's Edge: Africa, where the hippos live at CMZoo, and the calf's name aims to inspire Zoo fans to take action to conserve water.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes Nile hippopotamuses as a species vulnerable to extinction in the wild, estimating 125,000 to 150,000 remain in their native habitats. The primary threats are habitat loss and illegal and unregulated hunting. Hippos are hunted for their meat and for their ivory canine teeth.
Only 30 organizations accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in North America, including Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, house hippos. As first-time parents, Biko’s and Zambezi’s offspring represents an important contribution to the population of hippos in human care. The Nile Hippopotamus Species Survival Plan manages the population’s breeding recommendations to achieve the highest possible genetic diversity in the pool.
With a final push, a little splash and some adorable baby hippo ear wiggles, 28-year-old Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Nile hippopotamus, Zambezi (zam-BEE-zee), welcomed her first calf on Tues. July 20. At 1:57 p.m., the baby hippo popped up from underwater, bobbed up and down, and swam right over to meet its mom. As long as things continue to go well for Zambezi and her baby, the hippo building will be open and guests can visit them in Water’s Edge: Africa right away. If Zambezi or the baby show signs they need more quiet time, the Zoo will close the area temporarily.
“It was an incredible moment to see this beautiful baby join our family,” said Philip Waugh, lead keeper at Water’s Edge: Africa. “Zambezi’s a first-time mom, but she knew just what to do. As soon as she delivered the calf, she turned around to greet it and started helping it to shallow water. I’m so proud of her.”
The brand-new buoyant bundle of joy is the first hippo born at CMZoo in 32 years. The moment brought eagerly awaiting CMZoo staff members to happy tears as the baby Nile hippo – a species vulnerable to extinction in the wild – made its debut. So far, mom and baby appear to be healthy and bonding well. Staff will continue monitoring the two hippos regularly and won’t separate mom and baby for an exam unless they think it’s medically necessary.
3,200-pound Zambezi is a well-known member of the CMZoo family, famous for her laid-back demeanor and loud hippo ‘laughs.’ She first came to CMZoo from Denver Zoo, in 1993. In June 2020, Biko (BEE-koh), a now 18-year-old long-legged male Nile hippo, joined the CMZoo hippo herd on a breeding recommendation with Zambezi and her sister, Kasai (kuh-SIGH). Biko and Zambezi took a shining to each other nearly immediately.
“Like any new couple, their first ‘dates’ had a few awkward moments, but once they connected, it was full-on hippo love,” said Waugh. “The two of them wanted to be together constantly, and we accommodated! They would do a hippo breeding ‘dance’ where they would swim nose-to-rear in a circle. We also saw them taking turns resting their heads on each other’s rear ends for little pool naps. They made it clear they liked each other. We saw their first successful breeding in November.”
Eight months later – a normal full-term gestation for Nile hippos – their little one is finally here. Normal newborn hippos can weigh between 40 and 80 pounds, and this calf appears to be in that range. Because there are no immediate plans to physically check the baby, its sex likely won’t be known for some time. The Zoo will make plans to name the baby after its one-month birthday, following Zoo tradition.
Although Zambezi’s care team was pretty sure she was pregnant, it was scientifically difficult to substantiate, so the team decided to wait and see instead of sharing the pregnancy news. Weight gain is not a reliable way to check for hippo pregnancy, because their daily weight regularly fluctuates by about 100 pounds. Ultimately, Zambezi’s pregnancy tests – including fecal samples and voluntary ultrasounds – were inconclusive. But, there’s no denying it now!
This baby is the fourth member of the hippo herd at CMZoo, and the fourth baby born at Water’s Edge: Africa since April. On April 26, ring-tailed lemur, Rogue, welcomed her first baby. On July 11, Rogue’s sister, Allagash, gave birth to twins. All first-time moms and their offspring are doing great.
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.
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.
Born prematurely and exceptionally small two years ago at the Cincinnati Zoo, Fiona the Hippo celebrated her 2nd birthday on January 24.
Weighing just 29 pounds – about one fifth of what a normal newborn Hippo should weigh – Fiona’s story of against-all-odds survival captured the hearts of animal lovers around the world.
Photo Credits: Cincinnati Zoo (1,2,4,5,6); Lisa Hubbard (3)
As Fiona’s dedicated care team helped the little Hippo overcome one health challenge after another, fans cheered Fiona’s milestones, from her first swim to her poignant introduction to her mom Bibi and later her father, Henry.
You can read the dramatic story of Fiona’s birth and preemie care here.
Now about to enter her “terrible twos,” which her care team hopes won’t be too terrible, Fiona is just like any other normal Hippo. “Fiona is remarkable for being unremarkable now,” said Cincinnati Zoo Curator of Mammals Christina Gorsuch. “She’s just like most other 2-year-old hippos, except for the fact that she’s a celebrity in Cincinnati and beyond!”
The zoo held a huge celebration for Fiona’s first birthday and a big party last month when Fiona reached 1,000 pounds. This year, due to very cold outdoor temperatures, Fiona’s birthday was held behind the scenes and live-streamed to her many fans. Fiona and Bibi (Henry passed away in late 2017) enjoyed a towering “cake” made of Fiona’s favorite fruits and vegetables embedded in ice.
Fiona has become an ambassador for her species, and her story has inspired many people to care about wildlife and the challenges faced by endangered species.
Hippos are native to Africa, and while they are not officially endangered, wild populations are in decline due to habitat loss, increased incidence of drought, and illegal hunting. With less rainfall, Hippos, who often graze on tender grasses near water, have fewer areas in which to feed. As Hippos travel farther and farther to locate suitable feeding grounds, the risk of conflict with people and wildlife increases.
An endangered male Pygmy Hippo was born on August 4 at Zoo Miami. After several weeks of private time, bonding with his mother, the yet unnamed calf recently made its public debut.
Zoo staff were very careful to ensure that the infant’s introduction to the exhibit was done slowly and with an abundance of caution. The exhibit pool is being kept at a reduced level until staff are confident that the baby is a good swimmer and can navigate the exhibit well.
Initial indications were that this baby would have no trouble adjusting as once he was given access to the pool with his mother, they both jumped right in! In very little time, he was swimming quite well and soon started to jump and dive freely, seeming to thoroughly enjoy his new surroundings! The plan is to give mother and son access everyday beginning at approximately 10:00AM and then bring them back into their sleeping area at approximately 3:00PM. As the infant becomes more independent and comfortable in the exhibit, he and his mother will gradually be given access for longer periods of time.
Photo Credits: Zoo Miami / Ron Magill
This is only the second Pygmy Hippo birth in Zoo Miami’s history, with the last one being born in 2010 and both belonging to 26-year-old Kelsey. Kelsey was born at the Baton Rouge Zoo in Louisiana and arrived at Zoo Miami in May of 1993. “Ralph” is the 5-year-old first time father. He was born at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska and arrived at Zoo Miami in March of 2017. Ralph will remain separated from mother and son as in the wild, Pygmy Hippos are solitary and the father has no role in raising the young and could be a potential threat to the baby should he have access.
Pygmy Hippos are a much smaller version of their well-known cousins, the common River Hippo, and usually weigh between 400 and 600 pounds, whereas River Hippos can reach 6,000 pounds. In addition, they are less aquatic than River Hippos and are usually seen alone or in pairs rather than in large groups.
Pygmy Hippos are also more rare and are classified as endangered with only about 3,000 individuals believed to be in the wild, where they feed on a variety of plants and fruits. They are restricted to small isolated populations within the interior forests and rivers of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast, where they are threatened by deforestation and hunting for meat. Because of their rarity and shy behavior, very little is known about their habits in the wild.
A Pygmy Hippo calf born at The Toronto Zoo on August 10 is already hugely popular thanks to videos shared by her care team that show her climbing, snuggling, taking a bath, and being generally adorable.
Born to mom Kindia and dad Harvey, the female calf is the first to be born at the zoo in more than 20 years. Pygmy Hippos are pregnant for 180-210 days. So far, Kindia is being an excellent mom and the calf nurses from her regularly. Pygmy Hippo calves nurse for six to eight months, and they begin eating solid foods around two to four months of age.
The calf has not yet been named.
Photo Credit: The Toronto Zoo
At birth, Pygmy Hippos weigh about 10 – 14 pounds. This little calf is gaining weight steadily, and already weighed more than 25 pounds at three weeks of age. Adults weigh 400-600 pounds.
Each morning, the baby gets a bath so she can get clean and become acclimated to water, which is where adult hippos spend much of their time. Her care team notes that she rolls over in the tub and even blows bubbles. Even when it’s not officially bathtime, the calf sneaks in a little soak by climbing into her water dish for a quick dip.
Kindia and her calf are currently living in a private maternity habitat and are not visible to the public. This allows mother and baby time to bond and for the care team to maintain a close eye on the new arrival.
This birth is very important for Pygmy Hippopotamus conservation as the species is currently listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Only 2,000-3,000 remain in West Africa’s forests, with most of that population in Liberia. Small numbers are also found in Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast.
Over the past 100 years, Pygmy Hippo habitat has declined dramatically as a result of logging, farming, and human settlement. As deforestation continues and their habitat becomes more fragmented, newly accessible populations are coming under increasing pressure from hunters.
Kindia arrived at the Toronto Zoo from Parc Zoologique de La Fleche in Sarthe, France in 2016 as part of a global breeding program. The Toronto Zoo is part of the Pygmy Hippopotamus Species Survival Plan (SSP), which aims to establish and maintain a healthy, genetically diverse population, and to support conservation efforts to save this incredible species.
“Partnering with our colleagues by bringing Kindia over from France to mate with our male Hippo has allowed us to strengthen the genetics of the global population,” said Maria Franke, Curator of Mammals, Toronto Zoo.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is delighted to announce the birth of a Nile Hippopotamus, the first Hippo born at the park in 13 years.
Born on January 13 at approximately 10 p.m., the calf is staying close to mom Tuma. The animal care team is giving Tuma and her calf plenty of room to nurse and bond, so the calf’s gender and weight may not be known for some time. Typically, a newborn Hippo calf weighs between 60 and 110 pounds.
Photo Credit: Disney's Animal Kingdom
Adult Hippos weigh 2,500-3,300 pounds. They are the world’s third-largest type of land mammal. Hippos reside near water, often spending the day submerged and leaving the water at night to graze on grasses. They live in groups of a few dozen animals. The mouth, the position of which is an important communication tool among members of a bloat (group of Hippos), can open to 180 degrees.
Hippos can hold their breath for several minutes before surfacing to breathe. If a Hippo is asleep underwater, it remains asleep as it rises to the surface to breathe.
Tuma and her mate Henry were chosen to breed through the Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Nile Hippopotamus is a Vulnerable species with a declining population. This birth is an important contribution to the worldwide conservation and understanding of these creatures.
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.
Photo Credits: San Diego Zoo
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.