Animal Moments

It's Spring, and Jock the Hippo is out!

March 29, 2007

At the Detroit Zoo, many of the animals are kept indoors during the cold winter months. Occasionally, if the temperature gets up to 40 or more, a keeper will decide that the giraffes or the rhinos, for example, can go out into their yards for a bit of fresh air. It's always a treat to see an animal outside for the first time in the spring. Now the quiet winter days are ending, and the hot summer days with thousands of visitors crowding into the zoo will soon be upon us.

Last Saturday I was delighted to see Jock, our 20-something hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius), outside exploring his yard for the first time in months. He looked to be in fine fettle--all plump and purple-pink. He doesn't get a lot of exercise in the winter, and he looked as though he could use a bit of aerobic activity.

The photo shows Jock doing what he loves most in summer -- lying just under the surface of the water of his pool and coming up every few minutes to spin his ears to clear them of water and to grab a breath of air before sinking into sleep again.

On Saturday the pool hadn't been filled yet, but Jock walked in anyway and found a large deposit of dry leaves in one corner. As I watched, he sank the largest mouth of any land animal into the pile and began sedulously eating. I knew that hippos are herbivorous and favor grasses, water weed, and other greenery. I didn't know they liked dead leaves! Maybe Jock felt the need for a little roughage the way my cat Twinkle, if she gets outside, will grab the nearest stem of crab grass and chew on it happily.