All I want for Christmas is … a baby hippo!
This year, we couldn’t get enough of Fiona, and just in time for the holidays, a new and adorable bundle of joy has arrived on the zoo circuit to carry the cuteness forward into the new year.
On Dec. 1, Zsa Zsa, a mother pygmy hippo at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, gave birth to her healthy, 9-lb. baby. The zoo introduced the endangered newborn calf to the public on Tuesday. It is one of 32 pygmy hippos in the Species Survival Program; there are only about 3,000 left in the wild. The as-yet-unnamed cutie is the fourth baby born to Zsa Zsa, and the fourth of its species born at the Florida animal park.
Zoo staff plan to announce the sex of the petite hippo in the coming weeks with a special gender reveal. In the meantime, the calf is busy exploring (upon wobbly legs!) its habitat in “Ituri Forest” within “Safari Africa.” It has already gone for its first swim, with mom Zsa Zsa keeping a close eye on her baby.
According to the zoo’s Facebook page, the baby hippo will start eating solid food around 5 months old, “but will still nurse as that is their main source of nutrition! Once they start eating solids, their diet will consist of greens and other produce, followed by alfalfa hay.”
Chris Massaro, General Curator at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, told Fox 13 News that baby and mama will even nurse under water. “They’re born to swim,” he said.
A press release from the zoo states that pygmy hippos are smaller than their Nile hippo relatives. Adults of the species weigh in at only a few hundred pounds, and stand approximately 3-ft. tall.
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In general, pygmy hippos are much rarer than the common river hippos which live in large pods throughout eastern and southern Africa. The pygmy species prefer to live elusive, solitary lives in lowland forests, mainly within Liberia in West Africa, with a handful in neighboring countries. Thus, it’s quite understandable that Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo is thrilled to welcome a new member of the tribe.
“Pygmy hippos are elusive and extremely rare in the wild with only a few thousand thought to be left in the world,” said Massaro. “We’re one of only 13 zoos in the United States to care for this unique species so this birth is especially important for us, and the entire Pygmy hippo population.”