Taronga Zoo is celebrating the arrival of an endangered Pygmy Hippo calf, the first born at the Zoo in nearly seven years.
The female calf was born to first-time parents Fergus and Kambiri on 21 February, but made her public debut on 17 March under the watchful eye of her mother and keepers.
Visitors will begin to catch glimpses of the rare newborn on Taronga’s Rainforest Trail as she starts to explore outdoors and perfect the art of swimming.
“Pygmy Hippos naturally spend a lot of time in the water, so the calf is already having a great time learning to swim next to mum and even practicing holding her breath underwater,” said Keeper, Renae Moss.
“We’ve started by filling the pond to about 40 cm deep, but we’ll gradually increase the depth of the water as the little one grows in confidence.”
Weighing about five kilograms at birth, the calf is growing at a healthy pace and has begun mouthing solid foods: “The calf is absolutely thriving. She’s putting on weight every day and she’s already got little rolls of fat around her neck,” said Renae.
Taronga will soon announce a competition to help choose a name for the calf.
A vital addition to the region’s insurance population of Pygmy Hippos, the calf is the first born at Taronga since Kambiri in June 2010.
“Kambiri is proving to be an absolute natural as a mother. She’s very attentive and a great teacher, guiding the calf as she learns to swim and showing her what foods to eat,” said Renae.
“It’s also important for the calf to learn these natural mothering behaviours, as we hope she’ll grow up to be an excellent mum herself. With as few as 2000-3000 Pygmy Hippos remaining in the wild, every little calf is important.
Native to the forests and swamps of West Africa, Pygmy Hippos are solitary animals that generally only come together for breeding. Little is known about them in the wild, with the majority of research recorded about the species learned from those cared for in zoos.
“These elusive animals continue to be threatened by loss of habitat as their forest homes are logged and converted to farmland at an alarming rate. They are also vulnerable to poaching, hunting and civil unrest and their wild populations continue to decline. Protecting their natural habitat is critical in ensuring the survival of wild populations and we can all help Pygmy Hippos by choosing paper and wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council” said Renae.
Visit the Pygmy Hippo calf and mum Kambiri at Taronga Zoo Sydney daily from 9:30am - 1.30pm.
After 1:30pm you can view the calf and mum on the monitors and dad Fergus is in the exhibit all day next to Otters. (map reference D14).