Pygmy Hippo Born at San Diego Zoo

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UPDATE: We regret to announce the death of Francesca’s pygmy hippo calf. Staff observed the mother caring for her calf, but a veterinary exam indicated that the newborn wasn’t receiving proper nourishment. This is an extremely difficult loss, please take a moment to share your sympathy.

An important addition to the population of the world’s smallest species of hippo was made at the San Diego Zoo on Wednesday morning (Nov. 11). The youngster, weighing just 12 pounds, 2 ounces (5.5 kilograms), was born to its mother, Francesca, in the early hours of the morning. Mom and calf are doing well—and they are taking some quiet time in a barn out of the public eye, until keepers think the youngster is ready to try the larger pool available for swimming in the main exhibit area.

A baby pygmy hippo nestles in straw, a day after birth at the San Diego Zoo.

This is the first surviving hippo birth at the San Diego Zoo in more than a decade. Pygmy hippos are an endangered species from the forests of West Africa. There were estimated to be about 2,000 left in the world a decade ago, when the last population survey was done. Since then, political unrest, habitat destruction and wildlife trafficking in their native habitats are likely to have reduced the wild population to critically low numbers.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the mission of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network, reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

Photo taken Nov. 12, 2015 by Ken Bohn, San Diego Zoo.