The baby hippo with his mother Rani at Assam State Zoo Credit: EastMojo Image

Guwahati: Amidst the pandemic with the Assam State Zoo-cum-Botanical Garden being shut for visitors, good news has filled the empty lanes at the Assam state zoo with joy. A newly born hippopotamus has joined the zoo fraternity on September 11 to utter happiness of the zookeepers and the administration during these dormant times.

Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) in-charge of the Assam state zoo, Tejas Mariswamy expressed his delight while talking to EastMojo upon the arrival of its newest member. “Hippo is one of the mega species and after a long time we’ve had a birth of a hippo. The gestation period was also very long, we knew that the female was carrying and then it took almost around 18 months for her to deliver. It was of very tantalizing weight. All the keepers; the entire zoo is very happy about the new birth,” he said.

Further speaking on the newborn he states, “The baby is also very playful, we see it always playing in the water as well as when it’s walking with the mother. It’s very good news for the zoo.”

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The outbreak of the coronavirus and the subsequent lockdown has proved to be rather favourable for the animals at the zoo. It has helped in mating for some of the species which have further led to the arrival of many new off-springs who await visitors for them to look upon.

Speaking about how the shutdown of the zoo for visitors has helped animals in breeding, Mariswamy said, “It has a positive impact, we have seen very rare species. The Asiatic lion breed had not happened in a long time, while golden langur has happened; hippo was after a long break we’ve had. Tigers too have bred this time, during the pandemic, and we are expecting a hollow gibbon baby by next month.”

Interestingly, the golden langur baby which was born on March 26 has been named “Covid” after the disease, as it was conceived during the lockdown. Golden langurs were introduced at the zoo breeding centre in 2018; currently there are four of them including Covid, who are seen hanging from the branches at the zoo campus.

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Mariswamy feels this lockdown of the zoo has been a sort of a “vacation” for the animals which helped most to adapt to the surroundings and have also made them calmer. “Most animals have got a good break; in fact it’s like a vacation for them so they are actually enjoying. Cats are much calmer now as there are no disturbances,” he mentioned.

However there are some species which are eagerly waiting for visitors to arrive. “Some on the other hand are missing the spectators, especially the gibbons. They are quinte interactive by nature, hence enjoy when people are there. Now they see that it’s all vacant we see them probably a little bored,” Mariswamy added.

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