With chubby cheeks and an upturned nose, a baby Pygmy Hippopotamus may look more like a video game character than a real animal. But this male baby, born on February 22 at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, is an important addition to the population of this critically endangered species.
The male calf, who will be named in a soon-to-be-announced contest, made his public debut alongside his nine-year-old mother last week. Zoo staffers report that the baby rarely strays far from his mother as he explores his surroundings.
Pygmy Hippos are native to West Africa, where they live secretive lives in the deepest jungles. Found only in small pockets of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria, Pygmy Hippos are about half as tall and a quarter of the weight of their cousins the Common Hippos. Pygmy Hippos spend the day submerged in rivers, emerging at night to eat ferns, fruits, and leaves. To mark their territories, they wave their tails while defecating to spread feces as far as possible.
There are fewer than 3,000 Pygmy Hippos remaining in the wild, and little is known about their habits. Though not intensely hunted, Pygmy Hippos are losing habitat to agriculture and unsustainable forest logging. Programs like the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums seek to maintain genetically diverse captive populations of Pygmy Hippos and many other endangered species.Related articles