Hippo Cove at Cincinnati Zoo opens to public

Hippo Cove at Cincinnati Zoo opens to public (WKRC)

CINCINNATI ZOO, Ohio (WKRC) - Hippos returned to the Cincinnati Zoo July 21, after a 20-year hiatus.

Nile hippos are known as “river horses,” vegetarians that can weigh up to 8,000 pounds. Hippos are one of the most requested types of animals at the Cincinnati Zoo. Visitors will finally get their chance to get nose to nose with the zoo's newest residents Thursday, July 21.

"Moving hippos is not the easiest process, so getting ‘Bibi’ in from St. Louis and ‘Henry’ from Springfield, Missouri and having them arrive here safely and smoothly and unload was a huge release to everyone here,” said Christina Gorsuch, who is the curator of mammals (Africa and elephants) at the Cincinnati Zoo. “The icing on the cake is when we introduced them to each other they were immediately in love with each other."

Keepers are hoping the public will fall in love with them too because taking care of hippos is no easy task.

"Hippos produce between 20 and 30 pounds of waste a day, which makes sense because they eat between 20 and 30 pounds of hay a day, so what goes in, must come out," said Christina.

That makes it hard to keep clean, clear pools. The zoo uses mechanical, biological and chemical methods of filtration to clarify the water. That system has a high turnover rate. Water in hippo cove comes from storm water tanks under the lion exhibit. The water that people see in the exhibit eventually comes and goes through the water filtration process where it's cleaned and eventually recycled back into the hippo pool. The 65,000-gallon tank turns over twice an hour.

"That allows us to pull out all of big chunks, keep the water clear for the visitors and also safe and clean for the animals," said Rebecca Sprague, who is the water quality specialist at the zoo.

Rebecca has been monitoring the quality every day. When Bibi and Henry take up residence Thursday, visitors can also take a peek at what it takes to keep them afloat.

"We have a window at the end of our building that people can look in and they can see our huge sand filters and all of our pipes that run through the building,” said Rebecca.

The hippos are also ready for their big debut.

“Henry has never been up against clear glass, so he likes to go up and look at the children when they're standing really close to the glass,” said Christina. “He'll come and sometimes touch noses with them and it's pretty sweet."

Bibi and Henry have been approved for breeding. So, the zoo hopes to have a baby hippo in the next year.

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