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The story behind this ultra-viral video featuring two Philadelphia Zoo hippos

A 10-second, year-old video at the zoo spread across the world.

One of the Philadelphia Zoo's hippos in the viral video. (Screenshot via Instagram Reels)

Public relations pro Kory Aversa is no stranger to finessing a social media moment. He reps new restaurants, bars and interactive experiences that draw content creators and their followers to new spots throughout the city.

But a year-old video of two hippos eating pumpkins at the Philadelphia Zoo is what’s catching the attention on timelines this week.

Aversa visited the zoo with PHL 17 in 2021, he told on Monday, and hobbled up to the gate with a sprained calf. It was from that angle he captured the 10-second-long video of a pair of hippos munching pumpkins in one bite. When he posted it on TikTok last year, it gained him thousands of followers and about 54 million views. It was one of — if not the — most-watched Philly-area TikToks, he said.

As fall approaches, and he again is working with his client, the Philly zoo, on its upcoming Boo at the Zoo series, Aversa decided to post the video again. But the TikTok algorithm was giving him some trouble over the last few days. Although he was less familiar, Aversa decided to post the quick video on Instagram Reels.

Within two days, the video blew up. Now, in the less than two weeks it’s been up, the Reel has gotten 119.3 views and more than 4 million likes, and has been shared nearly half a million times. It’s been fun watching the video “spread across the world,” Aversa said, as comments started pouring in in different languages.

Thanks to social media tracking websites, Aversa says he’s seen the video climb to at least the ninth most-viewed Instagram Reel of the year. ( couldn’t independently verify this stat.) The social media algorithms aren’t readily understood by those who don’t code them. But the PR pro believes watching trends, using hashtags, and the satisfying “crunch” the hippos make in the video likely contribute to the video’s success.

“It was really interesting — not only the content of the pumpkin, or what they’re saying in the video, but I also had it at that vantage point because of my leg,” he said.

And if you — like this reporter — have been watching the video on a loop, get excited, Aversa said: There’s likely some merch coming soon that’ll benefit the Philadelphia Zoo.

Companies: Philadelphia Zoo

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