A Pygmy Hippo calf born at The Toronto Zoo on August 10 is already hugely popular thanks to videos shared by her care team that show her climbing, snuggling, taking a bath, and being generally adorable.
Born to mom Kindia and dad Harvey, the female calf is the first to be born at the zoo in more than 20 years. Pygmy Hippos are pregnant for 180-210 days. So far, Kindia is being an excellent mom and the calf nurses from her regularly. Pygmy Hippo calves nurse for six to eight months, and they begin eating solid foods around two to four months of age.
The calf has not yet been named.
At birth, Pygmy Hippos weigh about 10 – 14 pounds. This little calf is gaining weight steadily, and already weighed more than 25 pounds at three weeks of age. Adults weigh 400-600 pounds.
Each morning, the baby gets a bath so she can get clean and become acclimated to water, which is where adult hippos spend much of their time. Her care team notes that she rolls over in the tub and even blows bubbles. Even when it’s not officially bathtime, the calf sneaks in a little soak by climbing into her water dish for a quick dip.
Kindia and her calf are currently living in a private maternity habitat and are not visible to the public. This allows mother and baby time to bond and for the care team to maintain a close eye on the new arrival.
This birth is very important for Pygmy Hippopotamus conservation as the species is currently listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Only 2,000-3,000 remain in West Africa’s forests, with most of that population in Liberia. Small numbers are also found in Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast.
Over the past 100 years, Pygmy Hippo habitat has declined dramatically as a result of logging, farming, and human settlement. As deforestation continues and their habitat becomes more fragmented, newly accessible populations are coming under increasing pressure from hunters.
Kindia arrived at the Toronto Zoo from Parc Zoologique de La Fleche in Sarthe, France in 2016 as part of a global breeding program. The Toronto Zoo is part of the Pygmy Hippopotamus Species Survival Plan (SSP), which aims to establish and maintain a healthy, genetically diverse population, and to support conservation efforts to save this incredible species.
“Partnering with our colleagues by bringing Kindia over from France to mate with our male Hippo has allowed us to strengthen the genetics of the global population,” said Maria Franke, Curator of Mammals, Toronto Zoo.