As Fall hits Tampa Zoo, one lucky hippopotamus received a treat, not a trick, in a 14 pound rare pygmy baby! The newest baby at the zoo was born at 11 a.m. on Saturday October 11th to Zsa Zsa, one of the experienced mothers at the Tampa’s Lowery Zoo. This birth marks the third successful pygmy hippo birth in the Zoo’s history (prior births occurred in 2012 and 2008) and just the 30th animal in the AZA population.
For this birth, the zoo’s veterinary and animal care team assisted with delivery – a first for Zsa Zsa. When the mother appeared to be struggling due to breech presentation of the calf, the Zoo’s veterinarian Dr. Ray Ball was able to gently grab ahold of the calf and pull her out. The newborn was breathing and sitting upright right away.
Post-birth, Zsa Zsa has been observed exhibiting appropriate behaviors and the calf has been seen nursing routinely. The calf weighed 14.5 pounds –about the weight of a mid-sized pumpkin. Mother and calf will be given limited access to the exhibit in the coming days.
Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)Pygmy Hippo Species Survival Plan (SSP), designed to support conservation of select wildlife species at risk of extinction. The North American managed population is small – a total of just 30 hippos among 13 AZA-accredited institutions including this calf. Pygmy hippos are extremely rare in the wild with numbers thought to be only a few thousand.
“With a managed population of just 30 and fewer than 3,000 in the wild, each pygmy hippo birth is vital,” said Dr. Larry Killmar, vice president, animal science and conservation. “We are pleased to be able to contribute to the international conservation efforts for this very unique species.”
The Nigerian population of pygmy hippos is considered endangered. More “pig like” than its larger Nile relative, the pygmy can be found in West Africa in lowland forests. The species is mainly confined to Liberia, with small numbers in neighboring countries. Pygmy hippos are much smaller than Nile hippos, with adults averaging 350-550 pounds and standing only about three feet tall at the shoulder and four to six feet in length. The skin is smooth and hairless, and black to purple in color. The animal is known to by a shy, solitary species, and is primarily nocturnal.
The female pygmy hippo calf has not yet been named, but the Zoo will launch a naming contest online later this week for the community to participate. The Zoo’s animal care team will select several African names which will be posted for voting. The winning name will be announced on November 1 at a baby shower at the Zoo.
I cannot wait to get to the Tampa Zoo and check out this new baby, as well as the Halloween activities!!! To learn more about the Halloween activities click here to read our article!