Zoo News

Mysterious baby hippopotamus dies shortly after birth at Dallas Zoo

Mysterious baby hippopotamus dies shortly after birth at Dallas Zoo

Adhamu hippo hippopotamus
Adhamu the hippopotamus. Dallas Zoo

Another animal has died at the Dallas Zoo, this one a baby hippopotamus that died shortly after its birth on February 17.

This was the first hippopotamus born at the zoo's ballyhooed new $13.5 million-Simmons Hippo Outpost. In March 2017, the Dallas Zoo imported two hippos from other zoos for the purpose of mating, since baby animals born in zoos are a popular attraction that generate much interest and ticket sales.

Dallas hadn't had a hippopotamus since 2001, when the last one died.

The male hippo, Adhama, came from the Los Angeles Zoo. The female, Boipelo, came from Albuquerque BioPark. The pair were deemed a good match by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan, which ships animals around from zoo to zoo to be bred.

In a release, Dallas Zoo VP Harrison Edell says that there was no safe way for the zoo to intervene on the calf's behalf.

"We always put an emphasis on allowing animals to express natural behaviors, so we gave Boipelo space to interact with the baby immediately after the birth," Edell says. "The calf arrived just after 6:30 am, and while Boipelo did assist the calf to the surface of the pool, it was not soon enough. In reviewing the situation, we know for certain there was no safe way for the staff to intervene to help the calf."

Natural behaviors for a hippopotamus would entail offspring staying with their mothers for their first few years, as part of a larger herd. As they get older, females stay with other females and males gravitate to their own herd.

One thing that is generally not considered a "natural behavior" is for either a male or female hippo to be shipped from location to location for the purposes of breeding.

Prior to coming to Dallas, Adhama was transferred to the L.A. Zoo from San Diego in 2013 in order to breed with Mara, a female hippopotamus. Adhama was only 3 years old at the time; male hippos reach sexual maturity at around 7 years old.

Mara was brought to L.A. from the Topeka Zoo; she was 10. In 2014, they spawned a calf, Rosie. Mara & Rosie are now part of a "hands-on" encounter where they're locked in a cell so that, for an additional $15 charge, attendees can "touch their cool smooth skin," then conclude "with an unforgettable photo op likely to generate multiple #adorbs type hashtags."

By 2017, the zoos decided it was time to ship Adhama, the young stud muffin, off to a new home.

"It has been great having Adhama here at the L.A. Zoo," said L.A. Zoo curator Josh Sisk. "He will be missed by all, but we are excited to send him off to the Dallas Zoo facility where he will be able to contribute to the sustainability of this species."

Pregnancies in a hippopotamus last about eight months. The Dallas Zoo knew about Boipelo's condition but kept it under wraps, which seems a little less than transparent.

"We had been anticipating the baby hippo's arrival and were looking forward to announcing and having the new family debut when we reopen our Simmons Hippo Outpost in a few weeks," says the zoo's statement.

Previous animal deaths at the Dallas Zoo have included Kipenzi, a baby giraffe that died in 2015 after breaking three vertebrae in her neck; Kamau, the young cheetah that died of from pneumonia in 2014; and Johari, the female lion that was killed in front of zoo spectators in 2013.