Baby hippo born in Veneto nature conservation park
Natura Viva Park invites public to suggest names for threatened species newcomer:
Chosen name is POPO!
An exotic species conservation park in northern Italy has invited the public to come up with gender-neutral names for a baby hippopotamus born two weeks ago to elderly parents.
The couple named Gonzalo (aged 44 years) and 40-something Camilla are among the eight oldest hippos in Europe and their new baby is one of seven born this year on the continent.
They live in the the Natura Viva (Live Nature) Park near the Veneto town of Bussolengo, whose stated mission is to preserve endangered species and biodiversity from around the world.
Camilla and Gonzalo have become parents ten times over the years and the newcomer is likely their last, park staff said.
"The parents' record old age doesn't stop Camilla from dedicating all her time to the little one, suckling him in the water and shielding him from the curiosity of his elder brother Shombai," veterinarian and Natura Viva technical director Camillo Sandri said in a statement.
Little POPO has already doubled in weight to almost 1,000 kilos, but it's still too soon to determine its gender.
A total of 179 hippos live in Europe. These large, semiaquatic herbivores - whose closest living relatives are whales and porpoises, and who like to spend their days in lakes and rivers - are at risk in their native sub-Saharan Africa, where their habitat is being eroded and they are hunted illegally for their meat and their ivory teeth. In May 2006 the hippopotamus was identified as a vulnerable species on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species, with an estimated population of 125,000-150,000 having dropped 7%-20% since the IUCN's 1996 study. The Natura Viva Park was founded by architect Alberto Avesani and his wife in 1969 over an area of 240,000 square metres (59 acres).