September 23, 2019
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Baby hippopotamus is latest resident at Nicaragua zoo

Managua, Sep 5 (efe-epa).- A baby hippopotamus, the only member of the species in Nicaragua and which was rescued from a circus, starting Thursday is the newest resident of the National Zoo in Managua, otherwise known as the Nicaragua Zoo.

"For the first time in Nicaragua, we have a hippopotamus and ... she's here (at the zoo). And her name is Fatima," zoo director Eduardo Sacasa told EFE.

The public will be able to see the hippo - which is three years old and weighs 543 kilograms (1,195 pounds) - but, for the moment, she seems to be spending most of her time underwater in her habitat, due to her shyness and unfamiliarity with her new home.

Hippos are a species that has a thick skin, along with transparent eyelids, and they can close their nostrils and their ear canals to remain submerged for up to 20 minutes without having to surface for air.

Their eyes, ears and nose are positioned on their heads such that these can all remain above the surface of the water while the rest of their bodies are submerged.

Fatima, who arrived at the zoo on Wednesday, is in good health, although sometimes she seems to be whimpering because of the change in her environment, the zoo director told EFE.

According to Sacasa, the baby hippo has not suffered any physical mistreatment, but she was undernourished because her diet at the circus was not adequate for her needs.

The circus owners, whom Sacasa did not identify, raised Fatima from the time she was a newborn and even allowed her to play with youngsters in the water together, he said.

"The circus realized that they couldn't keep her because (hippos) eat a lot and so this opportunity came up and we're not letting her go. Here, she's being well cared for," he said.

The maintenance and medical care for Fatima during her stay at the National Zoo will be paid for by an "official sponsor," whom Sacasa did not identify.

The sponsor will pay for the medical care, preparation of her habitat and food, under the zoo's supervision, according to the report.

A baby hippo like Fatima consumes at least two liters (half a gallon) of milk per day, along with 6.8 kg (15 lb.) of horse feed, six watermelons and up to 40 cucumbers, as well as assorted other fruit.

Hippos are the third-largest species of land animals after the elephant and the rhinoceros, and they grow to weigh between one and three tons and live up to 40 years.

Besides the baby hippo, the zoo also is home to Bengal and Siberian tigers, a jaguar, puma, African lions and smaller species such as an ocelot, a Margay (a species of wild cat), and others.

The National Zoo, recently renamed the Nicaragua Zoo, houses and cares for members of 945 species although plans are to release many of these animals back into the wild in the near future.

A total of 35 people work at the animal maintenance center, including park guards, zookeepers, drivers, administrative staffers and others.

The zoo welcomes about 1,000 visitors on weekends, with Nicaraguans paying an entry fee of $1 and foreigners paying $4 each.

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