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Johannesburg Zoo welcomes Pygmy Hippo calf to his new home in the Highveld

Johannesburg Zoo welcomed 13 month old Pygmy Hippo calf to his new home in Joburg in August 2011. The young hippo is the offspring the zoo's first successfully captive bred Pygmy Hippo, Naboo who was born in 2003. In 2006 Naboo was sent to Pretoria Zoo's conservation farm in Makopane to be paired up with a thirty year old male hippo and in May 2010 the pair gave birth to an infant male.

This young hippo, who is the second generation of Pygmy hippos born through the Johannesburg Zoo's efforts, and has been moved into an enclosure next to his grandparent's Raoul and Jellybean. Because Pygmy's are a territorial species the calf will be kept separate from them and enjoy a life as a bachelor. This little hippo is an important addition to the zoo's breeding programme and plans have already started to find him a mate in preparation for when he becomes sexually mature in a few years' time.


Click here to read more about our new Pygmy Hippo's arrival.

About our little hippo

Pygmy Hippo keeper Alice Masombuka, sheds more light on caring for our new Pygmy Hippo in the following interview:

Question: How much does the new pygmy weigh?
Alice: He weighs approximately 112kg compared to a fully grown adult which weigh as much as 260kg.

Question: What is his personality like?
Alice: He is a happy little hippo who is very laid back. He loves to have is back scratched.

Question: What is his favourite food?
Alice: I am not sure yet. I have tried different kinds of vegetables but he likes to eat all of them.

Question: Does he ever interact with his grandparents in the next door enclosure?
Alice: Not very much. Pygmy Hippos are solitary animals in their natural environment so he does not mind living on his own.

Question: Is there any difference between African Hippos and Pygmy Hippos? Which species is easier to care for in the zoo?
Alice: There is a big difference in temperament. Although both hippo species can be territorial, the African Hippos see humans as a threat and are more dangerous. We have to be very careful when interacting with African Hippos. Pygmy Hippos are much, much smaller and easy to handle and interact with.

Pygmy Hippo Information

The Pygmy Hippo (Choeropsis liberiensus), is a threatened forest dwelling hippo species found in forests and swamp habitats in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast. The pygmy hippo was previously considered 'endangered' by the IUCN's Red Data list but due to conservation efforts and breeding programmes in zoos internationally their status has been changed to 'vulnerable'. It is thought that only 2000 animals are left in both protected and un-protected areas of West Africa. Factors affecting Pygmy Hippo populations in the wild include deforestation, the bush meat trade, human persecution and oil pollution.

Much like their larger cousin, the African Hippo, Pygmy's are herbivores which feed on aquatic plants and vegetation which has fallen on the forest floor. In the wild these animals' are solitary where males and females come together to mate and females avoid each other by marking their territory with dung heaps. This territorial behavior can still be seen in captivity where hippos will chase their keepers out of their enclosures.

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