Early this morning (Friday, Sept. 22, 2017), the San Diego Zoo welcomed a newborn hippopotamus calf to its Lost Forest habitat. The curious baby appears to be healthy and isn’t straying far from its mother, Funani. This is the 12th calf born to Funani and Otis. Guests at the San Diego Zoo can see the baby with Funani during normal operating hours, although viewing may be limited.
Although hippos are not yet endangered, 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.
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.