Johannesburg Zoo welcomes Pygmy Hippo calf, which is part of an endangered species breeding programme.

Johannesburg Zoo is excited to welcome a 13 month old Pygmy Hippo calf to his new home in Joburg. On Thursday 11 August, the young hippo will leave his current home at the National Zoological Garden’s (Pretoria Zoo) Mokopane Biodiversity Conservation centre in Limpopo to join the zoo’s two residing Pygmy Hippos.

The threatened hippo species is forest dwelling and 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.

Raoul, 15 years and Jellybean, 16 years old, are the Johannesburg Zoo’s current pygmy hippos and came to South Africa in 1997 from zoo’s in the Netherlands and Germany. Pygmy Hippos in zoos can live between 35 – 45 years and become sexually mature between 3 to 4 years old. Raoul and Jellybean successfully raised Naboo, a female born at the Johannesburg Zoo in 2002. Naboo was sent to National Zoo’s conservation farm in Makopane in 2006 on a breeding loan.

Naboo was paired with a thirty year old male hippo and in May 2010, at eight years old, Naboo gave birth to male calf. At birth pygmy’s weigh approximately 6kg and once full grown will be approximately 80cm tall and weigh between 180 – 260kg. Calves begin to wean from the age of 3 months old and are fed a diet of grass, vegetables and fruit. In light of the fact that females can give birth every two years, to encourage the pair to breed again this young male hippo will be moving from Mokopane to live next door to his grand parents at the Johannesburg Zoo.

This young hippo, who is the second generation of Pygmy hippos born through the Johannesburg Zoo’s efforts, is important for future of this breeding programme. Plans have already started to find him a mate in preparation for when he becomes sexually mature in a few years’ time. The Johannesburg Zoo would like to thank the National Zoo for caring for this young male and we look forward to future success in this joint breeding programme.

For more information on the Johannesburg Zoo’s conservation programmes visit
Prepared Candice Segal and issued by Letta Madlala Brand and Communications Manager on behalf of the Johannesburg Zoo. END.


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