WHEN HIPPOS FLY…

-- Cheyenne Mountain Zoo calls on a crane to help get Wicket, the newest member of the family, into her exhibit --

June 5, 2012, Colorado Springs, CO – There’s a new girl hanging around the pool at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo this summer! A crane lowered a giant shipping crate carrying Wicket, a 42-year-old Nile hippopotamus, into the hippo yard behind the aquatics building at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo this week. She joins Cheyenne Mountain Zoo sisters Zambezi and Kasai.

See video of the crane lowering Wicket into the exhibit.

See photos of Wicket’s arrival.

Wicket came to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo from Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, another Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited facility. Hippos are social animals and normally live in groups called pods. After her father passed away, zookeepers were concerned Wicket would be lonely, so arrangements were made for her to join the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo family.

Earlier this spring, zookeepers at Brookfield Zoo placed the shipping crate in Wicket’s exhibit to help prepare her for the trip to Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. She was rewarded with loads of treats, like melons, for going in on her own. A special animal transport company then loaded the crate into a giraffe trailer, which looks like a giant horse trailer, and set out on the 17-hour drive from Chicago to Colorado Springs.

“Wicket was a little nervous when we opened the door to her crate,” says Tracy Thessing, Animal Curator at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. “But after a few minutes, she backed out and headed straight for the pool. Zambezi and Kasai were very interested to see who their new neighbor was.”

Wicket will be separated from Zambezi and Kasai during the standard 30-day quarantine period, but the three will be able to “howdy” (i.e. get to know each other) through a gate barrier. Once the quarantine period passes, the girls will share the same exhibit space. Guests will be able to see all three hippos during the process.

Nile hippos live in rivers and lakes in sub-Saharan Africa, and are considered one of the most dangerous animals because they are so territorial. Even at 3,000-plus pounds (females), hippos can run up to 30 miles per hour. They typically wallow during the day and spend the night grazing. At Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, each hippo eats as much as 65 pounds of hay every day, along with a salad of fruits and vegetables. Hippos can live to around 50 years old in a zoo setting. While Nile hippos aren’t endangered, wild populations are decreasing.

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