SAN ANTONIO – Timothy the hippopotamus is already a pretty big deal and now his pout has some clout.
The hippo is known for his love poems to the Cincinnati Zoo’s hippo, Fiona, and his ability to jump like a dolphin. He also has a Lego sculpture in his likeness, and now, his artwork is a hot commodity.
The San Antonio Zoo posted a video of Timothy and his grandmother Uma giving paint “kisses” and it’s been viewed more than 4 million times in just 24 hours.
Zoo officials said the painting exercise is an enrichment activity for the animals.
Painting with the hippos! 🎨🦛💋
Painting with the hippos! 🎨🦛💋 Painting is done with non-toxic paint as a voluntary training exercise and as a form of sensory enrichment , helping them become more comfortable and trusting during interactions with their caretakers. Plus, it’s also fun! Activities with new and different stimuli like paint are fun for both the hippos and the trainers. As a bonus, you end up with some super unique artwork!Posted by San Antonio Zoo on Tuesday, October 19, 2021
“They started doing them in 2017 after Timothy arrived from Albuquerque and was comfortable in his new environment,” said zoo spokesperson Jacob Downing.
Timothy has grown quite a bit since he arrived at San Antonio Zoo, and thus, his “kiss” has gotten bigger.
Painting sessions are done as often as a few times a month, but the hippos’ enrichment schedule and the caretaker’s schedule are ultimately what determine how often the hippos get to paint.
“The hippos can choose not to participate if they do not feel like doing so,” said Downing. “Since it’s a form of sensory enrichment they enjoy, it typically isn’t turned down by them, but if for some reason they aren’t in the mood, we will try it at a later time.”
Downing explained that a number of the animals at the zoo participate in painting sessions including tigers, snakes, birds, elephants, bears, and more.
Timothy and Uma both paint but “Timothy is more tactile in nature, so he is our go-to,” said Downing.
Want to buy a hippo painting? Downing said they are sold in the zoo’s gift shop, Nanyuki Market.
“People can buy them if they’re available, however, they aren’t a guaranteed product since it totally depends on the animals and their training schedules,” Downing said.