A rare pygmy hippopotamus was born at 11 a.m. Saturday, October 11 at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo to experienced mother "Zsa Zsa." The newest offspring, a female, 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.
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 has launched a naming contest online for the community to participate. The Zoo's animal care team has selected several African names which have been posted for voting. The winning name will be announced on November 1st at a baby shower at the Zoo.