A brand-new baby hippopotamus was born at the San Diego Zoo, officials announced Tuesday.
The hippo was born around 6:30 a.m. Monday and is doing well, Jenny Mehlow of San Diego Zoo Global said. Keepers have been observing the newborn and its mother, Funani, and the calf has already nursed several times, Mehlow said.
For now, the calf will be staying very close to its mother since baby hippos typically nurse for about eight months. The sex of the hippo is not known yet, as keepers have not been able to get a close enough look at the baby.
Hippo calves are usually about 50 pounds at birth, zoo officials said.
Mehlow said this is the fifth calf raised by Funani at the San Diego Zoo. The 30-year-old mother has birthed 11 calves since 1989. Her mate is Otis, an adult male hippo brought to the San Diego Zoo from the Los Angeles Zoo in 2009 specifically to breed with her.
Last March, Funani gave birth to another baby hippo. Sadly, that calf died just days after its birth.
Mehlow said this newborn has had no issues thus far. The zoo's animal care staff is watching both the baby and Funani closely.
San Diego Zoo Senior Keeper John Michel said the calf and mother are bonding nicely, with their nursing sessions lasting several minutes, occurring several times a day.
“If people come out to view the baby, patience will be rewarded,” added Michel. “Guests may have to wait sometimes as long as half an hour, but the calf will wake up and start moving to deeper water, and mom will start to push it back up to shallow water.”
The San Diego Zoo says the river hippopotamus is a threatened species.
Primary threats to hippos are illegal and unregulated hunting, for meat and the ivory found in the canine teeth, and habitat loss, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Hippos can still be found in a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
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.