A baby hippopotamus born at the San Diego Zoo this past Sunday has died, zoo officials confirmed Thursday.
According to the zoo, animal care staffers found baby animal dead Thursday morning during routine observations. The cause of the hippo’s death is unknown at this point.
Zoo officials say the newborn’s mother, Funani, is an experienced mother and very attentive to her young. Mother hippos are known to be very protective of their babies.
Funani and the little one spent time together Wednesday in the 150,000-gallon pool inside their habitat at the zoo. She kept the baby so close that keepers were unable to tell the gender of the newborn during their interaction.
Funani has birthed five calves at the San Diego Zoo since her arrival in 1995. Besides her, other hippos at the zoo include Otis, an adult male who was brought to the San Diego Zoo from the Los Angeles Zoo in 2009 specifically to breed with Funani.
The pair wound up having Adhama, a baby hippo born in Jan. 2011. Adhama moved to the Los Angeles Zoo in June 2013.
Following Adhama’s birth, Otis and Funani were separated. Then, after spending two-and-a-half years apart, the pair was reunited in July 2013. Otis fathered this new little hippo with Funani shortly thereafter.
The San Diego Zoo says the river hippopotamus is a threatened species.
The zoo’s first hippopotamus was born at the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago in July 1935 and arrived in
San Diego in August 1936, becoming the first hippo to be exhibited by a zoo on the West Coast, according to the zoo website.
In 1940, hippos Rube and Ruby arrived in San Diego from the Calcutta Zoo in India. Together, the pair had 11 offspring, helping the exhibit grow. Ruby and Rube died in 1982 and 1988, respectively.