Meet Hoover, Lola, and the latest addition to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's hippo herd - baby Hodor! Hodor was born to mum Lola in July.
The little one sports the exact same pink skin markings – a natural variation in pigmentation – on its legs as his mum, giving the appearance that the calf is wearing a tiny pair of socks.
Common hippos are originally from west and east central Africa. The word hippopotamus comes from the Ancient Greek meaning "river horse".
Common hippos are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species, but their populations are in decline due to threats including hunting and habitat loss.
New calf Hodor is part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), which helps ensure the survival of endangered species in Zoos across Europe.
Pygmy hippos live in forests near water and are shy and reclusive compared to the more greagrious and social common hippo. They spend much of their day in the water which helps to keep them cool and protect their skin from the sun in hot climates.
You can often find ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's trio of pygmy hippos camoflaged in their outdoor pond, or if it is a colder day, in their indoor heated pool!
It is estimated that there could be less that 2000 pygmy hippos left in the wild, with a Nigerian subspecies already believed to be extinct. In the wild, pygmy hippos come under threat from hunting and habitat loss. Many populations of hippos have become fragmented due to logging, mining, farming and other human activity. As pygmy hippos are forced to engage with local communities, they come under more and more danger from extinction.
In 2007 ZSL’s EDGE of Existence Programme recognised pygmy hippos as a priority for conservation. Since then, ZSL has been working in Liberia and Sierra Leone, trying to work towards protecting what remains of the wild pygmy hippo population.
In the field, ZSL carries out vital research into pygmy hippo ecology, distribution and behaviour. We also work with local communities and government wildlife authorities to protect them. Alongside this, ZSL London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo are part of a captive breeding program and in 2010 produced the IUCN SSC Regional Pygmy Hippo Conservation Strategy.
To learn more about ZSL’s conservation work, you can visit our project page. You can also visit the EDGE website and learn just what makes the pygmy hippo such an important animal to preserve. If you feel inspired by the work that you see, don’t forget that you can donate to ZSL and raise funds for future and current conservation projects.