Pint-sized bundle of joy: Pygmy hippo born at Taronga Zoo Sydney
December 01, 2021
Taronga Zoo Sydney is delighted to announce the birth of a female Pygmy Hippo calf, the first calf born at the Zoo in over four years. The calf was born on Monday, November 22 to experienced parents Kambiri and Fergus and is doing swimmingly!
Whilst the calf is still perfecting the art of walking and in some instances waddling, she is spending most of her time in an off-exhibit nursery den, under the watchful eye of her mum, Kambiri.
Like most newborns, much of the day consists of the calf exhibiting short bursts of energy followed by suckling from mum then napping. However, because Pygmy Hippos are a semi-aquatic species, the calf is also mastering the art of swimming.
Kambiri gave birth to the calf in a shallow pool, however, Pygmy Hippo calves aren’t born knowing how to swim or hold their breath, this is a natural behaviour that is taught by their mothers.
Taronga Unit Supervisor of Ungulates Gabe Virgona said: “Over the past couple of days, we’ve been giving the pair supervised access to a shallow pool in their den. They were initially hesitant, but just yesterday the calf took her first step into the water. Although it may not seem like a big step to some, it is a massive milestone for mum and calf,” said Virgona.
Over the past couple of months, the team have been busy ‘baby proofing’ areas of the Pygmy Hippo den and exhibit. In the maternity den, the team has installed baby barriers along the walls which act as a shelter and are a form of protection for the little calf. On the main exhibit, keepers have raised the floor of the pond so that it is easier for the calf to access, whilst she is still learning to swim and hold her breath.
“Whilst the calf is still finding her slightly-webbed feet and mastering the art of swimming she won’t be on exhibit just yet, but it will only be a matter of time until she’s ready to make her big splash to the public – so stay tuned for updates,” said Virgona.
Pygmy Hippos are native to forests and swamps of West Africa and are generally solitary animals, only coming together for breeding. There is estimated to be between 2000-3000 pygmy hippos remaining in the wild – classifying the species as endangered, with numbers continuing to decline in the wild.
“These remarkable, yet highly elusive animals are threatened by a number of reasons, but the leading cause of decline is habitat loss, as their forest and jungle homes are often being logged and converted into farmland. However, wild populations are also heavily impacted by human-animal conflict as well as poaching,” said Virgona.
Mum, Kambiri and the little calf are expected to make their public appearance in the coming weeks, just in time for the school holidays. In the meantime, Taronga’s new Zoo Friends Family-Flex membership gives big and little kids the opportunity to visit 365 days a year and get to know all our newest arrivals including five adorable Lion cubs. You can also keep up to date with what’s new in the Zoo by tuning in to tarongatv.com for the latest updates and animal antics.