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Rare pygmy hippo born at Lowry Park Zoo

TAMPA — A rare pygmy hippopotamus was born last week at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo to second-time mother Zsa Zsa. The birth is only the second in the zoo's history (the first occurring in 2008), and is a significant conservation milestone.

Pygmy hippos are extremely rare in the wild, with numbers thought to be only a few thousand. According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, there were a total of 54 pygmy hippos among 14 AZA-accredited institutions in North America.

"The birth of this rare and endangered nocturnal forest species marks only the 55th individual in the managed population within North American and underlines the importance of our conservation efforts," said Dr. Larry Killmar, vice president of animal science and conservation. "With fewer than 3,000 pigmy hippos in the wild, each birth is vital if we have any hope of saving this truly unique species."

The zoo's animal care team has monitored Zsa Zsa and the yet-to-be named female newborn since birth. The mother appears fine and the calf and has been seen nursing routinely. Calves are born about the size of a large human infant — or in this case a Thanksgiving turkey — approximately 10 pounds and 20 inches long.

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. The animals are comfortable both on land and in water, but rest and forage near waterways. In Africa, pygmy hippos can most often be seen in shady sites near swamps, riverbanks or muddy areas.