The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in Ohio, America, is celebrating the birth of Fritz the baby hippo. Born on 3 August 2022 in the Hippo Cove, Zoo staff will gradually introduce him to the public for short periods, but people can see him on the Zoo’s webcam.
He was named Fritz after the public from over 60 countries submitted 90,000 potential names and voted in August between two: Ferguson and Fritz. The name Fritz received 125,183 (56%) of the 223,542 votes.
Born to his 23-year-old mum Bibi, Fritz, a Nile Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), joins the rest of his hippo bloat: his five-year-old sister Fiona and 19-year-old father Tucker. Tucker arrived at the Zoo in September 2021, from San Francisco Zoo, specifically to be Bibi’s companion.
Bibi had no complications delivering her second baby, called a calf, after an eight-month pregnancy. Bibi’s first calf Fiona was born on 24 January 2017 six weeks premature and weighed only 13 kilograms (29 pounds) – too weak for her mother to care for her – but Fritz was full-term and weighed about 27 kilograms (60 pounds). Fiona now weighs 907 kilos (2,000 pounds) and is very healthy. Adults can weigh 2,268-3,629 kilos (5,000-8,000 pounds).
The new addition will give Zoo staff the opportunity to observe, study, and compare the behavioural differences between a hand-raised girl (Fiona) and a mom-raised boy (Fritz), said Cincinnati Zoo’s director of animal care Christina Gorsuch.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden designed and created Hippo Cove, opened in July 2016, to begin a hippo breeding program. The first two hippos brought to the Zoo, Bibi and Henry, received a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). Bibi was 17 years old when she arrived at Hippo Cove from St. Louis Zoo in Missouri and Henry was 34 years old when he arrived from Dickerson Park Zoo in Missouri.
Henry sadly died in October 2017 at the age of 36, fortunately after he was able to witness the birth of his daughter Fiona (the sixth calf he sired during his lifetime). The median life expectancy of the Nile Hippopotamus is 35 years, but they can live to 40-50 years.
Hippo Cove has a nose-to-nostril underwater viewing area and an overlook platform where people can see the 318,266 litre (70,000 gallon) pool. The water filtration system (the most expensive part of the exhibition) is designed to handle the huge amount of hippo waste produced daily – hippo poop – which is estimated at 11 kilograms (25 pounds) of waste daily for each adult hippo, said Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard.
Hippo Cave was built to Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards. For example, the water used in the hippo pool is 100% rain water (mostly from stormwater tanks under the Zoo’s lion exhibit), said Mark Fisher, Vice-President of Facilities and Planning at the Cincinnati Zoo.
The Nile Hippopotamus is not an endangered species, but numbers are declining. The number of Nile Hippos in Africa are thought to have declined by 7-20% from 2007-2017, with an estimated 125,000 to 148,000 remaining in the wild.
Photographs: Photos are from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden website, https://cincinnatizoo.org
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