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Unna: Female, born August 12, 1989 at St. Louis Zoological Park. She arrived at the Zoo on June 28, 1990.
Cindy: Female, born July 7, 1989 at Granby Zoo in Montreal. She arrived at the Zoo on October 10, 1990.
Hippos have grayish skin with short, fine hairs that sparsely cover their bodies. Hippos have specialized pores that ooze an oily pink substance that protects their sensitive skin from water loss and sunburn. Early explorers thought that hippos sweat blood, but what they were seeing was really this secretion.
Hippos have enlarged incisors and long, curved lower canines that grow continuously throughout the animal's life. These tusks are kept extremely sharp by rubbing against the shorter upper canines.
Wild hippos are known to live throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa wherever acceptable habitat is available. The largest populations of hippopotamus can be found in Central Africa and along the Nile River Valley in East Africa. Hippos are found in rivers and lakes that are deep enough for the animals to submerge, and that have nearby grasslands for grazing.
In captivity and in the wild, hippos are long-lived animals that mature slowly and have calves every other year. A typical lifespan in zoos is 33 for males and 37 for females, although some individuals have reached 50 years. Lifespan in the wild is not well known.
Hippos in the wild live in loose groups consisting of one territorial male and several females. The bull will fight off competition from other male hippos in order to defend a section of the river or lake and keep all the females that enter his territory for himself.
A hippo's pregnancy lasts eight months. Breeding usually takes place so the calf will be born during the height of the rainy season. The calf is born in the water, can weigh over 100 pounds and is nursed completely underwater. By the time the calf reaches a year it will weigh approximately 500 pounds.
Calves and their mothers form life-long bonds. Male hippos reach the age of sexual maturity anywhere between six and 14 years old, although only older, stronger males can defend a territory and breed. Females begin breeding between seven and 15 years of age.
Hippos spend most of their time in the water with only their eyes and nostrils exposed. When underwater, they can hold their breath for as long as six minutes before coming up for air. Although hippos can swim, they prefer to walk along the river bottom and are surprisingly graceful.
Hippos, considered the most dangerous animal in Africa, are extremely territorial. In their social groups, hippo males will search for the best territory along the shoreline and defend it vehemently. To protect their young, females group together to form their own nursery herd. Hippos of both sexes have been known to attack and flip boats that trespass in a male's territory or come too close to the young, often with fatal results.
Hippos can grow as big as 13 feet long and five feet tall.
Hippos generally weigh around 2,600 pounds although big males can grow as large as 5,500 pounds!
In the wild and here at the Zoo hippos are strict vegetarians. In the wild, hippos will graze on grass, herbs and leaves. Preferring to eat at night so that their sensitive skin is protected from the sun, hippos can consume around 200 pounds of food. Oddly, hippos don't really eat water plants, preferring to travel long distances from the water at night to graze on grasses. At the Zoo, the hippos are fed about 12 pounds of vegetation, mostly lettuce, herbivore pellets and as much hay as they desire (about 50 pounds a day!)
Sub-Saharan Africa including Central Africa and along the Nile River Valley in East Africa.
On the 2011 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the hippopotamus is listed as Vulnerable.
To learn more about the conservation efforts at the Philadelphia Zoo, click here.
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