If it comes to keeping the common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), one of the most important zoos in Europe is Ostrava Zoo in the Czech Republic. It is not only so because they have been keeping this species since 1967 without a break and 32 hippo calves were born there during this time, but also because the European Studbook (ESB) of this species has been kept here since 2006. Since the hippo is such a dominant species for Ostrava Zoo, it appears in the logo of the zoo since 2004. What’s more, the logo also appears in the design of the facade of the Tanganyika Pavilion, the home of the hippos. Besides all these, there is a hippo calf living in Ostrava Zoo at present, that, despite being more than a year old now, is still one of the favourites of the visitors of this Czech zoo.
The first hippo of Ostrava Zoo arrived on 16th November 1967. The female Rosa came from Dvůr Králové. One year later Honza, the male living in Ostrava at the moment, arrived. They have established the still unbroken hippo dynasty of Ostrava. Their first offspring was born in 1972. 32 hippo calves were born there in the past four decades, 20 males and 12 females. Ostravan-born hippos are living currently in the zoos of Prague, Warsaw and Vienna in Europe, but a hippo has travelled from there to the zoo of Lahore in Pakistan, too.
The the hippos are currently living in a house built in 1975, where species of pachyderms (elephants, hippos, rhinos and tapirs) were kept originally. The part of the building inhabited by the hippos was renovated between April 2010 and April 2011 with the support of Norway Grants and the Municipality of Ostrava. It was then that the building got its present from resembling the logo of the zoo. Attention was paid during the renovation to make the building more sustainable by using alternative energy sources and modernising the water filtration system. Not only hippos but slender-snouted crocodiles (Mecistops cataphractus) and Cichlids endemic in Lake Tanganyika live in the Tanganyika Pavilion, as well.
Three hippos live in the Tanganyika Pavilion of Ostrava Zoo at present. The male called Honza was born in Cologne Zoo in 1967, he was moved to Ostrava a year later, so he has been living there for more than 40 years now. The female named Katka was born in Ostrava Zoo in 1977. The youngest Ostravan hippo became one year old not long ago, the little male was born on 3rd June 2013, making him the first calf to have been born in the renovated Tanganyika Pavilion.
The calf was born under water – as it is natural when it comes to hippos. He and his mother rarely left their pool for the following month since it is much safer for baby hippos to stay in the water than to leave it. Calves are also suckling under the water during this time. The gender of the baby could only be determined when he regularly left the water. By then he also could be named, a ceremony was held for this purpose on 1st September 2013. An Ostravan car dealer company, a main sponsor of the zoo, gave the name Kvido to the calf. Kvido is a Czech male name of German origin meaning „sylvan man”. Although the keepers served a „cake” made of the favourite tidbits of the animals at the naming ceremony, Kvido at that time still preferred his mother’s milk to the food of the adults. Now, over a year old, his appetite is rapidly increasing together with his body size.
The common hippopotamus previously inhabited all suitable wetlands in Africa. It became extinct along the Nile as early as the 1800s and only survived to the South of the Sahara. However, its habitat has become fragmented even there by now. Its total population has declined by 30% in the past three decades, so IUCN now lists it in the Vulnerable category. It is estimated that about 157,000 hippos live in the wild in Africa at present. The survival of the species is primarily threatened by hunting for their meat and their bones (that are sold on the black market as a susbstitute for ivory), the converting of their natural habitat to agricultural areas (where they are also hunted as pests) and the unstable political state of certain African countries. The European Studbook of hippos has been kept by an employee of Ostrava Zoo, Jan Pluháček, since 2006. The first edition of the studbook was published in 2007. Based on the latest, 8th edition published in 2014, 188 hippos were living in 71 institutions in Europe at the beginning of this year. Furthermore only 5 other hippo calves besides Kvido were born in Europe in 2013.