By BRIAN BINGAMAN
The only aquarium in the U.S. with hippopotamuses, Adventure Aquarium has given their hippo habitat a remodel that will make the sharks and penguins jealous.
“This is one of the most surprising and enjoyable elements for our guests,” said the aquarium’s executive director Kevin Keppel, a 1987 graduate of Souderton Area High School.
The 4,000-pound Genny and the 3,000-pound Button — both females — have lived at the aquarium since 2005 and, Keppel said, the staff learned enough about them over the years to make informed and innovative upgrades to their indoor habitat to the tune of $1 million.
“Hippos … avoid being outside when it’s sunny and it’s hot. They can get sunburn; they can get dehydrated,” said the aquarium’s supervisor of birds and mammals Ann-Marie Bisagno, adding that hippos spend almost 90 percent of their lives in water.
The lower viewing area of the transformed “Hippo Haven” has a 60,000-gallon pool, as deep as 10 feet in spots, where you can get a nose-to-nose underwater view of the hippos through the glass, which is reportedly even clearer thanks to a new water filtration system. They share the water with cichlids, fish found in the hippo’s African river habitat that clean their sensitive skin.
Bisagno said that 13-year-old Genny and 17-year-old Button enjoy the filtration system’s water jets.
The third largest land mammal on earth (behind rhinos and elephants), hippos are most active at night, which partly explains Hippo Haven’s low lighting. The lighting’s also there for theatrical effect for viewing the new projected light and sound show that illustrates a day in the life on an African river. Created by the production company Mousetrappe, it highlights the hippo and the various animals, like impalas, baboons and cheetahs, that share its natural habitat.
Both born in captivity, Genny, the darker-colored one, with bumps behind her ears, and Button, whose skin appears more pink in color, seem amused by the attention paid to them by their visitors, and are not the least bit shy about being photographed. “They’re very smart; they like to learn new things,” commented Bisagno.
Hippo Haven also raises awareness of African hippos being on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “vulnerable” list because poachers hunt them for the ivory tusks inside their mouths.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Hippo Haven.
WHERE: Adventure Aquarium, 1 Riverside Drive, Camden, N.J.
HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
ADMISSION: $25.95, $18.95 for children 2-12. Combo tickets with 4D Theater available.
INFO.: Call (856) 365-3300, visit www.adventureaquarium.com or www.facebook.com/AdventureAquarium, on Twitter @AdventureAqua.
Follow Brian Bingaman on Twitter @brianbingaman.