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He hippo in Japan zoo turns out to be a she

TOKYO (AFP) – Betrayed by its DNA and unmanly toilet habits, a hippopotamus in Japan thought for seven years to be a he is in fact a she, the zoo where the wallowing giant lives said yesterday.

The 12-year-old came to Osaka Tennoji Zoo in 2017 from the Africam Safari animal park in Mexico, where officials attested on customs documents that the then five-year-old was male.

But zookeepers long scratched their heads, a spokeswoman told AFP. In particular, Gen-chan did not display the typical male hippo behaviour of splattering faeces around while defaecating – with a propeller-like tail motion – in order to mark territory.

Nor did it make courtship calls to females and zookeepers were unable to visually identify any male genitalia, a dangerous task in such a large and potentially aggressive beast.

“Therefore, we requested a DNA test at an external institution, and the result showed it was female,” the zoo said in a statement posted last week.

“We will keep doing our best to provide comfortable environment to Gen-chan, so everyone, please come and see,” it said.

This undated handout image released to AFP by Osaka’s Tennoji Zoo shows 12-year-old hippopotamus Gen-chan, who was thought to be male but tests showed was female. PHOTO: AFP