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Birth control fail means surprise delivery for hippo at Los Angeles Zoo

Posted at 12:26 PM, Nov 05, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-05 12:26:00-05

Surprise! Baby Hippo Born

Mara had been putting on weight lately, so those around her thought something was up. But she was on birth control, so if there was to be a baby, that would be a bit of a surprise.


Mara the hippopotamus is now the proud and doting mother of a healthy calf.

Surprise! Baby Hippo Born

The baby doesn’t have a name yet. The staff at the Los Angeles Zoo hasn’t been able to get close enough to determine the sex of the newborn.

According to a release from the zoo, Mara went into labor Friday while in her outdoor pool but chose to gave birth on dry land. Animal care staff was close by but all went well.

Mom, child and father, known as Adhama, can be viewed by zoo visitors each day.

The Los Angeles Zoo’s female hippopotamus, Mara, went into labor at 1:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon and gave birth to a healthy calf two and a half hours later. Guests who happened to stop by to view Mara and her companion, Adhama, received the special Halloween treat of witnessing a live hippo birth. This is the first hippopotamus calf the Zoo has had in 26 years.
Mara, 10 years old, arrived at the L.A. Zoo from Topeka Zoo in December 2013 as a companion for our male, Adhama, 3 years old, who came from the San Diego Zoo in June 2013. This was the first time in many years the Zoo had introduced a pair of hippos, and they had an immediate connection.
Since breeding is closely monitored to comply with the Species Survival Program (SSP) and Mara was on birth control, the birth came as a happy surprise but wasn’t completely unexpected. Animal care staff had a hunch a birth was imminent due to Mara’s symptoms such as weight gain, but they had limited testing options to confirm the suspicion. Staff referenced their breeding notes, and guesstimated that a birth could potentially happen in mid-November based on a gestation period of eight months for hippo pregnancies.

This is the first baby hippo at the zoo in 26 years. The staff had guessed that Mara was pregnant but only had limited testing options.

Mara, 10, came to Los Angeles from Topeka, Kansas, in December and instantly bonded with Adhama, who is 3 years old, zoo officials said.