Three Little Pigs
Tiny Things Debut at the SF Zoo!

Up Close and Personal with a Pygmy Hippo

The Mokopane Biodiversity Conservation Centre was established in 1979 as a satellite of South Africa's National Zoo to promote conservation, research and education in support of native African species. Located roughly halfway between Pretoria and the famous Kruger National Park, Mokopane is part zoo, part breeding facility and part open range where a variety of African species interact in a natural environment. 

These camera phone pictures were taken specially for ZooBorns and feature Mokopane's newest little pygmy hippo, born May 28th.




Photo credits: Mark Howitt / National Zoological Gardens of South Africa

The Mokopane Biodiversity Conservation Centre has added to the world conservation programme with the birth of a male Pygmy hippo on 28 May 2010. In captivity, the majority of Pygmy hippos born are female, so the new male at Mokopane will most certainly contribute greatly to the conservation of the species. Currently, the international world zoo population of Pygmy hippos stands at about 190 individuals.

Mom “Marmite” and Dad “Bovril” where introduced to each other on the 23 August 2009 after being in adjacent camps as sudden introductions results in aggression between individuals. Mating was observed between the two animals between the 16 and 23 October 2009 and seven months later Marmite gave birth to little “Oxo”.

The Pygmy hippo is naturally found in West Africa, mainly confined to Liberia, with small numbers in the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast. They prefer dense, swampy forests near rivers, streams and creeks. They are herbivores and feed on various vegetation, including succulents, tender shoots, leaves, roots, grasses, and fallen fruit. Unlike Nile hippopotamus, Pygmy hippos also feed on aquatic plants.

Pygmy hippos reach reproductive maturity at about three years of age. Gestation is between six and seven months, with the birth of a single calf, usually on land. The newborn weighs 4.5 to 6.4 kg.

Today, Pygmy hippos are listed as Appendix II animals on CITES. The IUCN classifies them as Vulnerable and the Pygmy hippos in Nigeria as Critically Endangered. These animals face more immediate danger as there are an estimated 2 000 – 3 000 individuals remaining in the wild, with the main threat being primary threat is loss of habitat. They have been hunted for their teeth and for food.