The San Diego Zoo recently released a photo of a tiny Pygmy Hippo, nestled in straw a day after his birth. The calf was born November 11th and is an important addition to the population of the world’s smallest species of hippo. This is the first surviving Pygmy Hippo birth at the San Diego Zoo in more than a decade.
The tiny youngster, weighing just 12 pounds, 2 ounces (5.5 kg), was born to its mother, Francesca, in the early hours of the morning. Mom and calf are doing well, and they are taking some quiet time in a barn, out of the public eye, until keepers think the youngster is ready to try the larger pool available for swimming in the main exhibit area.
Photo Credit: Ken Bohn / San Diego Zoo
The Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaptrotodon liberiensis) is a species from the forests of West Africa. Reclusive and nocturnal, it is one of only two extant species in the Hippopotamidae family (the other being the larger cousin: Hippopotamus amphibious) Like its larger cousin, the Pygmy Hippo is semi-aquatic. It is herbivorous and feeds on ferns, broad-leaf plants, grasses, and fruits.
Gestation for the Pygmy Hippo ranges from 190 to 210 days, and usually results in the birth of a single calf. Common hippos mate and give birth only in water, but the Pygmy Hippo will mate and give birth on land or water. Young Pygmy Hippos can swim almost immediately after birth. They are fully weaned between six and eight months of age.
The Pygmy Hippo is classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There were estimated to be about 2,000 left in the world a decade ago, when the last population survey was done. Since then, political unrest, habitat destruction and wildlife trafficking in their native habitats are likely to have reduced the wild population to critically low numbers.