Summer stroll: pygmy hippos on the move
Wednesday 14 May 2008
Forget putting your clocks forward, weather forecasts or picnics in the park - there is a much better indicator that summer is finally here: pygmy hippo migration.
Every year, ZSL London Zoo’s two pygmy hippos, are moved from their winter abode, the cosy hot baths in the Zoo World building, back to their large, outdoor summer paddock.
Although this migration is only to a neighbouring enclosure, for the animals it is an upheaval, especially as their main pastimes involve sleeping, eating and bathing.
Nicola and Thug are normally quite used to their move; the keepers just open the gates and, with a little fencing to guide them, they walk right over.
This time round, Nicola, always the more adventurous of the pair, was first to make her way into the paddock. Thug was less convinced by the British summer weather, and decided to take his time in making the short journey. But after a bit of coaxing by his keepers, along with some food, he followed his friend into their summer home.
The need for their relocation over winter is due to the drop in temperature. Their summer paddock is outside and features a huge pool, but as the weather gets colder the hippos no longer use it and this can cause their skin to dry out and crack.
A hippo’s skin normally releases a special moisturiser that keeps it nourished and smooth. However it needs to be wet for this to be effective and if it is not bathing this can cause problems.
Hunted by man and leopard for their meat, pygmy hippos are an endangered species.