Taronga Zoo is celebrating the arrival of a precious Pygmy Hippo calf, the first to be reared by its mother at the Zoo in over 20 years.
The female infant named, ‘Kambiri’ meaning “allow me to join this family “was born to mother ‘Petre’ and father ‘Timmy’ and discovered in the early morning of Saturday 26 June by the Zoo’s dedicated keeping staff who had been monitoring the pregnancy.
For the next few weeks visitors will begin to catch glimpses of the newborn as it spends short periods of time exploring the exhibit with its mother.
“Pygmy Hippos spend a lot of time in the water so Kambiri needs to perfect the art of swimming before it can spend long periods in the exhibit. Like all infants, they tire quickly so we will be taking things day by day.”
“We ask our visitors to be patient whilst we introduce Kambiri to the outside world, however in the coming weeks we do hope to share her with the community as much as possible. Pygmy Hippo babies are one of the cutest there is and exceptionally precious with only a few thousand individuals left in the wild.”
The infant is the second female calf born to Petre and Timmy, following ‘Monifa’ which was born in 2008. Unfortunately despite Petre initially showing very strong mothering skills, Monifa had to be hand-reared by zoo keepers after a difficult breach birth which compromised the newborn’s ability to thrive.
Taronga’s Hippo Manager, Renae Moss, said: “When we discovered a very strong, healthy calf and mother we were very relieved that this birth had been easier for Petre. We have such a good relationship with Petre we were able to conduct ultrasounds throughout the pregnancy, helping us to closely monitor her.”
“With as few as 3000 Pygmy Hippos estimated to remain in the wild today, if necessary we would have hand-reared this calf, but there is no substitute for a hippo being raised by its natural mother.”
“We are delighted that Petre is suckling this calf and appears to be doing everything right to raise the infant without our help,” said Renae.
Initially there was some concern that Petre wasn’t producing enough milk to feed the newborn, but thanks to the relationship and trust the adult hippo has in her keepers they have been giving Petre a helping hand and providing the calf with an additional feed during the day to help maintain its weight.
“Born at a very healthy 5.3 kilograms we are delighted to report that Kambiri has doubled her birth weight and now tips the scales over 13 kilograms. She is putting on about 300 grams a day.”
As Pygmy Hippos are a solitary species Timmy will play no role in raising Kambiri. The two adult Hippos only come together for breeding, preferring to live their separate lives at other times as they would naturally in the wild.
The young female is a vital addition to the region’s population of Pygmy Hippos. Foot and Mouth Disease in European countries has restricted the importation of hoofed species making every birth significant for the local gene pool.
The infant is only the fifth Pygmy Hippo to be born in Australia in two decades. Along with Taronga’s recent breeding successes, the regional population is gradually increasing with zoo colleagues in Cairns having welcomed a male calf last year.
Pygmy Hippos are a solitary forest-dwelling creature native to West Africa. Little is known about them in the wild with the majority of research recorded about the species learned from those cared for in zoos. The World Conservation Union estimates that there are fewer than 3000 Pygmy Hippos remaining in the wild. They are primarily threatened by loss of habitat as forests are logged and converted to farm land, and are also vulnerable to poaching, hunting, natural predators and war.