BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Zoo New England has announced its first successful birth of an endangered hippopotamus species.
The 13-pound male pigmy hippo calf was born at Franklin Park Zoo on Monday October 5th to mom Cleopatra. Zoo officials said the pair are bonding behind-the-scenes before making their exhibit debut.
"The birth was a joyous moment marking the culmination of years of work, careful planning and dedication by the animal care and veterinary teams," said ZNE. "The tiny male calf is the first pygmy hippo born at Zoo New England."
Since Cleopatra had given birth to stillborn calves in 2018 and 2019 due to prolonged labor, labor was induced early so that the veterinary team could assist if needed.
“The calf was immediately so bright, strong and aware, and was holding his head up right away. The calf was introduced to Cleo soon after birth and was nursing within a few hours,” said Dr. Eric Baitchman, Zoo New England Vice President of Animal Health and Conservation. “Each new birth contributes to the continued survival of this endangered species, and we are thrilled by this success. This is the result of years of teamwork and commitment, and I am incredibly proud of the Zoo team."
Zoo New England participates in the Pygmy Hippo Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated nationally through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). SSPs help to ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered, and enhance conservation of these species in the wild.
Cleo’s pregnancy is a result of an SSP breeding recommendation with her mate Inocencio. The population managed by the Pygmy Hippo SSP is small and skewed toward females, which makes this birth even more significant.
Pygmy hippos are native to West African rainforests in the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Ivory Coast and Liberia. The endangered species faces increasing threats including shrinking natural habitat as the result of logging, farming, mining and human settlement.
Because of their reclusive nature, they are difficult to count in the wild. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it is estimated that there are less than 2,500 individuals left in their native habitat in West Africa.
(Photo: Zoo New England)