Everything you need to know about Adventure Aquarium's Nile hippos
Shawn Danner, a biologist at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, talks about the recently renovated Hippo Haven exhibit featuring Button and Genny. The Courier-Post
CAMDEN – Adventure Aquarium’s Nile hippos, Button and Genny, recently opened their newly renovated home Hippo Haven.
The project, which began in May, transformed the entrance of the exhibit to a habitat that would be seen in Africa. Hippo Haven first opened in 2005.
Shawn Danner, a biologist at the aquarium, said Button weighs in at just over 3,000 pounds and was born on March 22, 1997 at Parque Zoological de Leon in Mexico. "Her hippo gal pal, Genny, is 18-years-old and was born on July 10, 2000 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida. Genny is the larger of the two girls, weighing over 4,000 pounds."
Some of the new attractions include pancake tortoises named Louise and Gertrude along with spiny tailed lizards, shield tailed agamas and a grey parrot. All animals, like Button and Genny, call Africa home.
“In the last year alone, we’ve invested over $5 million in enhancing the guest experience. We’ve opened a brand-new Marketplace café, constructed Penguin Park – the new home to our largest African Penguin colony ever, and now we are turning our attention to Hippo Haven,” said Vince Nicoletti, Executive Director of Adventure Aquarium in a press release.
“Button and Genny are among the most beloved animals at Adventure Aquarium. The enhancements in Hippo Haven will provide more ways for families to explore and discover the wonders of Africa together.” said Nicoletti.
Frequently asked questions about Button and Genny
Why do you have hippos at the aquarium?
We have hippos at Adventure Aquarium because they are considered an aquatic species. Their DNA tells us their closest relatives are whales and dolphins. Hippos in the wild will spend most of their days sleeping in the water to protect their skin from sunburn.
Where did the hippos come from? How did you get them into the exhibit?
Button was born at a zoo in Mexico and then went to live at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Genny was born at Animal Kingdom. They came to the aquarium in 2005. They were driven from Florida on a truck in two wooden crates. One at a time they were transferred to a sturdier metal crate and taken up a freight elevator. That crate was then placed in front of a door in the holding area and the hippos could walk right into holding.
How do you tell the hippos apart?
Our hippos are pretty easy to tell apart. Genny is much larger than Button. Genny weighs around 4216lbs and Button weights 3096lbs. This is easy to see on land. When they are submerged it is harder to see the size difference so their eyes are the best way to distinguish them under water. Genny’s eyes are slightly more prominent than Button’s, and Genny has bumps between her ears.
How old are the hippos?
Genny’s birthday is 7/10/2000. Button’s birthday is 3/22/1997.
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What do they eat? How much do they eat?
The hippos eat grain, Timothy hay, fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens. They eat 70,000 calories a day which comes out to 35-40 lbs., of food a day.
Do Button and Genny fight?
Genny and Button rarely show aggression toward each other. They will interact with one another which can appear to be aggressive because of the nature of their body structures. The trainers at the aquarium have never had to separate Genny and Button because of aggression. Best thing is to allow them to interact until they focus on something other than each other.
How do you get the hippos out of the water?
Genny and Button are able to walk right out of the exhibit onto land. The exhibit is at an incline for them to easily do this.
How do you clean the exhibit?
The water is constantly running through a filtration system which helps to keep the exhibit clean. Also, twice a week when the hippos do not have access to the water the staff will dive into the exhibit to vacuum and scrub.
Why are the fish in the exhibit? Do they eat the fish? What kind of fish are they?
The fish are African cichlids. The hippos are herbivores and therefore do not eat the fish. The fish do however eat the hippo’s waste and will also nibble dead skin cells and algae off the hippo’s bodies. The hippos will occasionally open their mouths to let the fish pick any food particles from their teeth.
Are the hippos trained?
Genny and Button do participate in a training program. They both know several different behaviors. Examples of some behaviors they know are to open their mouths, put their heads up and hold it, lay down, and also to follow and touch a target pole.
Can people go in the water with hippos?
Staff work protected contact with Genny and Button at all times. That means there is always a barrier between them and the hippos. We would never enter their area. Even though they are conditioned to be around people, we never consider them tame. They will still exhibit wild behavior and react as a wild hippo would if they become agitated.
- A hippo’s mouth can open 180 ° - in adults that can be 4 feet wide
- Hippo tusks can reach 20 inches in length and are used to show off and for defending territory
- Hippos mark their territory by spinning their paddle-shaped tail to spread their dung
- Hippos can close their nostrils underwater and hold their breath for up to 5 minutes
- Hippos are born underwater and weigh about 100 pounds
- Male hippos are twice as big as the females and can weigh as much as a pickup truck
- Hippo population estimates are currently between 125,000 and 150,000
- Hippos don’t swim but use their powerful legs and webbed feet to run and leap underwater.
Frequently asked questions and hippopotamus facts provided by Adventure Aquarium.
Adam Monacelli is a regional photographer/videographer for The Daily Journal and Courier-Post. He has worked in the newspaper industry for over 25 years. If you have a neat video or photo idea, email him at email@example.com.
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