Hippos: Hit the beach!
There’s interspecies interaction of a special kind at the San Diego Zoo: visitors and hippos! Our gregarious river hippos and pygmy hippos seem to delight in both entertaining and observing the humans that come to see them in their luxurious pools. Great eye-to-nostril encounters are possible through the special underwater viewing window at each hippo species’ exhibit. These state-of-the-art pools let you see hippos in all their glory, from above and below, whether in the water or out!
The pint-sized pygmy hippos can be found in an mixed-species habitat just off Easy Street in the Lost Forest zone. They share their home with a lively family of Wolf’s guenons, agile monkeys that zip from branch to branch and can sometimes be found sharing a sandy spot on the beach with our hippo pair.
Journey further down Hippo Trail and you’ll see a much larger species of hippo: the common or river hippopotamus. Don’t let their large size fool you: these behemoths are amazingly graceful underwater. There is a life-size bronze hippopotamus sculpture for youngsters to pose on and a replica of a hippo skull to view.
The fish you see in both of our hippo pools are tilapia. They help keep the water clean by eating the hippos’ dung and scraping away algae. These helpful critters even give the hippos a “massage” by scraping away old skin and growths.
Just behind the river hippos’ beach you’ll find a most unusual animal: the okapi. With its white-and-black striped hindquarters and front legs, it looks like it must be related to zebras! But take a look at an okapi’s head and you’ll notice a resemblance to giraffes. Its long, dark prehensile tongues, just like a giraffe’s, helps them strip the buds and young leaves from the understory brush of their rain forest home. A sign nearby has a life-size photo of an okapi sticking out its blue-black tongue. Kids have fun trying to stick out their tongues too—have your camera ready!