Virginia’s most famous hippopotamus went swimming for the first time this week. On Tuesday, December 27, Iris and her 3-week-old calf were moved into the zoo’s indoor pool area for some hippo swimming lessons. Iris showed her baby around the new area and then demonstrated how to enter the pool. The baby followed mom cautiously into the water. As normal, but remarkable nonetheless, the calf’s natural instincts kicked in and she started swimming immediately.
The calf is becoming more comfortable with her new surroundings by splashing in the water and playing with the underwater currents. As a precaution, we lowered the water level in the pool so the baby’s head could stay above the water. Now we are conditioning the calf to swim by slowly increasing the water level each day.
Iris and her baby have quickly stolen the hearts of millions of people around the world. To the new fanbase of pygmy hippo lovers, we are excited to announce that public viewing has opened for all zoo visitors. There are viewing windows in the indoor pool area, and guests can now see mom and baby every day at the zoo. Iris and her calf will stay in this area until the baby is large enough to navigate the outdoor habitat.
The baby has not been named yet. We are currently reviewing all the name suggestions we have received. More information to come later.