SAN ANTONIO – Think getting your kids out of bed in the morning is hard work? Try waking up the hungry, hungry hippos at the San Antonio Zoo.
News 4 WOAI went behind the scenes to a place where usually, only trained zookeepers get to go: the hippo holding pen.
“Opening 14,” hippopotamus trainer Angela Lim says.
Rise and shine.
“Rahhh,” Lim teases the hippos while feeding them hay.
Tumbo, the male, is 38 years old. And at 37, Uma’s his younger girlfriend.
“These guys have pretty big personalities that match their big size,” Lim says.
Tumbo’s resting his head on the metal bars of the pen. That’s because it’s heavy, even for a big guy like him.
"Tumbo weighs a little bit more. He weighs 5,500 pounds,” Lim says. “Uma's slightly less at 5,200.
Lim acted as our ambassador to the hippos.
“I like to brag,” Lim says about how much she loves her job. “I get to work with animals today. What do you have to do?”
Petting a hippo is a pretty slick living – pun intended, as an up-close look at the hippo skin shows.
"There are these little red droplets that are coming out of their skin. It's called blood sweat,” Lim says. “It's deceiving because it's neither blood and it's not sweat."
It’s actually sunblock, bug repellant and antibiotic rolled into one.
The hippos’ long teeth are made of ivory.
"Unfortunately that's what their hunted or poached for, because of those teeth,” Lim says.
Some costly chompers that crunch and much – get this – 100 pound of hay a day.
“All right,” Lim says while prompting the animals to walk from the pen to the exhibit space. “Good job Tumbo.”
It’s their daily pilgrimage around 10 a.m., and it’s more of a waddle than a walk.
“Are you a good girl today,” Lim asks Uma.
They’re gentle giants that zookeepers handle behind bars and the rest of us watching from behind glass.
"They're really well-adapted to life underwater,” Lim says. “If you look at their body structure, all of their eyes, their nose, their ears, all of that is situated on top of their heads so they can be almost completely submerged in the water."
Looking at us while we look at them – both worlds, curious about the other.