The hippo population in the city zoo has gone up by one, after a calf was born on Wednesday. The newborn seems healthy, but funnily enough, zoo-keepers are not entirely certain who the mother is.

All the female hippos are housed together inside the enclosure with the big pond, and every one of them has apparently developed maternal instincts, as they hover protectively around the little one.

The two male hippos were separated from their female ilk about four months ago, when another calf was born. This early segregation, it turns out, was a sensible course of action as the male hippos are aggressive with a tendency to kill the offspring that is not their own. Moreover, the mammals were accommodated in a pond far too small to accommodate the growing numbers, and there was a chance of infighting.

The birth of hippo calves is met with certain trepidation since July last year, when two females – Rukmini and Bindu – gave birth barely two weeks apart. Both the calves, the first named Toto and the second unnamed, met similar and gruesome ends that involved some carelessness on the mothers’ part. Toto suffered from pneumonitis that is suspected to have developed following inadequate feeding by the mother. The illness was aggravated by bruising caused by a kick from Rukmini. Bindu’s offspring died from blunt force trauma that resulted, most likely, by accidental trampling by the mother.

It was after Bindu gave birth that the keepers tried to separate the males. The commotion around the transfer is assumed to have stressed the mother. This time, though, there has been no human intervention, and the staff members are keeping their fingers crossed.