Hippos are adorable creatures. They are cute, really big and also extremely intelligent. There’s definitely more to them than meets the eye.
Most visitors to Adventure Aquarium get to know our girls during feeding time or enrichment when biologists talk about how they weigh 4,000 pounds (Genny) and 3,000 pounds (Button); where they’re from (former “Disney hippos”); and how to tell them apart (Genny’s eyes are a little, how should we say “buggy” and Button is a bit smaller in size and more pink). But we wanted to really get to know the residents of Hippo Haven so we sat down with Callin Mulvaney, Biologist II on our Birds and Mammals team.
Callin is super lucky to get to work with the ladies on the daily and has gotten to know them pretty well in the process.
Big Personality Profiles
Genny – Our Goofy Girl
The larger of the two hippos, Genny can be easy to spot by her physical presence; but it’s her unique personality that really shines through with guests and staff, alike. Genny has been known to stick out her tongue in the AM to say hello/good morning to biologists during wake-up routines (now that’s a great way to start the day, huh?). Have you ever seen a hippo curl her lips against a window? Stick around long enough and watch as Genny does just that. She’ll continue to show off a bit in other ways, like when she bounces with kids in the underwater viewing area of Hippo Haven in a copycat, well “copy-hippo,” game that is a real crowd-pleaser.
Button – The Princess
Refined might not be something you would say about a hippo, but that’s exactly what comes to mind when looking for an adjective to describe this perfectly pink hippo. Button can be a little particular with keepers, as any princess would, but knows when to “let her hair down” and have a bit of fun with her roommate, Genny, too. Nope, she’s not all diamonds and tiaras – in fact she likes to instigate playtime with Genny by nudging her behind to get her moving. She also spins, twirls and flips around underwater – quite the prima *hippo* ballerina.
We are arteeeests, thank-you-very-much!
Both of the ladies love showing their artistic sides and they’ve been really busy preparing paintings for Hippo Awareness Weekend (each hippo artist has made over 100 “kiss” paintings – with more to come in the final days before our big conservation weekend!). About four to six kiss paintings are done during each morning session, allowing Genny and Button to get their creative juices flowing with each press to the canvas.
The biologists working with the girls during painting sessions began noticing some interesting habits, including Button beginning to stick her tongue out to the canvas when she paints! The paint is non-toxic and hippo-friendly so the staff isn’t concerned but more intrigued that she’s clearly expressing her silly side.
Her pal, Genny, likes to paint her wall instead of the canvas causing a little issue with her artwork. Luckily, the keepers can add some more paint to her nose and get her back to creating her masterpieces. Funny enough, Genny also likes to see the final product each time, as she tilts her head up after painting to see it. Pretty cool, right?
Callin noted that the girls really enjoy their painting enrichment sessions. It stimulates their schnozzes and the sensation of having paint rubbed on their nose and mouth seems to make the experience really enjoyable for these budding artists.
Genny and Button also enjoy other enrichment (and happy hippos are the best hippos, right?) such as playing with ice blocks, hose spray play, having a game of hippo hide-n-seek using yummy banana leaves, bamboo and willow branches, enjoying special treats during their feeds (Fact: Genny does not like strawberries.), and underwater workouts with trainers! During Hippo Awareness Weekend, visitors will get to see ALL of these throughout the day!
But seriously, if someone asks where they can get a kiss from a hippo – tell them to look no further! Check out more info on our Hippo Kisses here.
Turgwe Hippo Trust & Our Mission
Speaking of Hippo Awareness Weekend… During this conservation event held annually, we raise money and awareness for hippos in the wild. This year we’re hosting it over Valentine’s weekend, February 13-14 and on National Hippo Day on Monday, February 15. We are proud to say that 100% of the money raised goes directly to an organization we’ve worked closely with: The Turgwe Hippo Trust. Karen Paolillo runs the nonprofit in Zimbabwe, Africa and has been so supportive of Adventure Aquarium and our hippos on exhibit knowing that Genny and Button are helping all the hippos in Africa as ambassadors of their species. Not only does this awareness event help raise money for a great organization but it educates our visitors on the state of hippos across the world.
We want to make the connection between our hippos, Genny and Button, to hippos in Africa and can successfully do so through this event. It’s a truly special moment when we are able to connect a family from the Delaware Valley to these incredible creatures.
Currently, the Turgwe hippos are experiencing a severe drought and the wild hippos in Zimbabwe, Africa are in desperate need of our help.
If you are unable to attend our Hippo Awareness Weekend or want to help now, we ask you to donate whatever you can to help save these hippos. They need your help and every amount counts! For more info on how to donate, click here. You can be an amazing hippo hero!