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A Pygmy Hippo Calf Makes Waves at Bristol Zoo Gardens

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A Pygmy Hippo has been born at Bristol Zoo Gardens in England! The calf, born in early February, has been named Winnie. She was born to mom Sirana and father Nato, and lives with them on exhibit at the zoo. She spends her time eating, sleeping, and swimming around the exhibit’s heated pool.

Baby hippos are usually born underwater and can swim almost immediately. However, mom still keeps a watchful eye on her calf. 

Assistant Curator of Mammals Lynsey Bugg says, “Young hippos tire easily and Sirana will quite often guide her baby into shallow water or bring her out of the pool. Sirana is very protective and doesn’t let her stay in deep water for too long."

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Photo credits: Katie Horrocks (1-3); Western Daily Press (4,5) 

Pygmy Hippos are much smaller than their big cousins the Common Hippopotamus, measuring just under three feet (.9 m) tall at the shoulder as adults. They are well adapted to aquatic life, with a nose and ears can be closed underwater. Shy and nocturnal, they live in the forests and swamps of West Africa. 

In the wild, females usually breed once every two years. A single calf is born after a gestation period of about six months. A calf weighs between 10 to 14 pounds (4.5 and 6.2 kg) and is unable to walk very far at first. The mother conceals it in thick cover and visits to feed it. After three months, the youngster begins to eat vegetation.

The Pygmy Hippo is threatened in the wild, where it is thought less than 2,000 survive. In Liberia, destruction of forests surrounding the Sapo National Park by logging companies is damaging one of the few remaining strongholds for this species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the Pygmy Hippo as Endangered.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is part of an international captive breeding program for the Pygmy Hippo. Buggs says, “The European program is a well-established and very successful program and our male, Nato, is a genetically important animal; by default, so will be his offspring."