Born on Saturday, the calf is the ninth baby hippo born to mother, Funani, since being at the San Diego Zoo
The San Diego Zoo’s longtime hippopotamus momma, Funani, has given birth to a healthy female calf — the ninth little one born to Funani since she arrived at the zoo in 1995.
The roughly 70-pound baby hippo, who is not yet named, was born Saturday at 6:30 p.m. The zoo’s animal care specialists said both baby and Funani (whose name means “desire” in Zulu) are doing well — alert, active and eating well.
“The new calf from the get-go has been active and keeping Funani on her toes,” wrote Jennifer Chapman, senior wildlife care specialist at the zoo, in an email to the Union-Tribune. “Funani definitely has her hands full with this one.”
The calf was fathered by Otis, a male hippo from East Africa who arrived at the San Diego Zoo in 2009, specifically to breed with Funani.
The three are the only hippo residents currently under care at the local zoo. Although Funani has given birth to nine calves since arriving in San Diego, the little ones were eventually moved to other institutions accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, Chapman said.
Hippos take eight months to develop in the womb before birth. Funani’s last calf, Tony, was born in September 2017 and moved to another institution in July 2019.
“Specialists monitor Funani’s behavior closely and will separate her from calf when she is showing more interest in being with Otis,” Chapman said. “Such behaviors historically have occurred when the calf reaches a year and a half to two years old.”
For now, however, Funani is devoted to her newest baby.
“Funani does a great job of protecting the calf,” Chapman said. “In fact, her greatest protection is making it look like there isn’t a calf by having her tucked between her and the side of the pool or on the other side of her head on the beach.”
Zoo visitors will have the best chance of seeing the calf during meal times, when they move in and out of the pool, she said. Once the two are more acclimated to routine (in about two weeks’ time), zoo staff will have the hippos on a rotation. Funani and the calf will be in their habitat Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends. Otis will be int habitat Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.