Zoo Santo Inácio, in northern Portugal, announced their newest family member, a male Pygmy Hippo.
After almost nine months of pregnancy, little Mendes (named by affectionate keepers) was born weighing just over 4 kilos (9 lbs).
For several months after the birth, Mendes and his mother, Romina, were kept off-exhibit, giving them opportunity to bond. The time alone also allowed the new calf to practice swimming and learn other essential skills.
At three months old and 20 kilos heavier, Mendes and his mother can now be seen, on-exhibit, enjoying their mornings outside.
The Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis) is a small hippopotamid, native to the forests and swamps of West Africa, primarily in Liberia, with small populations in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Ivory Coast.
They are reclusive and nocturnal and one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae, the other being its much larger cousin the common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius).
The Pygmy Hippo displays many terrestrial adaptations, but like its larger cousin, it is semi-aquatic and relies on water to keep its skin moist and its body temperature cool. Behaviors such as mating and giving birth may occur in water or on land.
They are herbivorous, feeding on ferns, broad-leaved plants, grasses, and fruits it finds in the forests.
In captivity, Pygmy Hippos have been conceived and born in all months of the year. The gestation period ranges from 190–210 days, and usually a single young is born.
The Common Hippopotamus gives birth and mates only in the water, but Pygmy Hippos mate and give birth on both land and water. Their young can swim almost immediately. At birth, they weigh 4.5–6.2 kg (9.9–13.7 lb) with males weighing about 0.25 kg (0.55 lb) more than females. They are fully weaned between six and eight months of age (before weaning they hide in the water by themselves, when mother leaves to forage for food). Suckling occurs with the mother lying on her side.
The Pygmy Hippo is classified as “Endangered” by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). The main threats to these herbivores are deforestation due to rubber plantations, palm oil and coffee; hunting for its meat and its skull (used in traditional medicine and rituals); and civil strife. The World Conservation Union estimates there are fewer than 3,000 individuals remaining in the wild.
Zoo Santo Inácio joined the cause for protecting the Pygmy Hippo in 2006 with the receipt of a female, Romina, and two years later, with the arrival of a male, the Kibwana. The breeding couple entered an important European Programme for Endangered Species Breeding (EEP), led by the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums (EAZA).