Keepers at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo had a late Christmas present when Flora the pygmy hippo gave birth to a much-needed boy on Boxing Day.
The Zoo’s keepers say they are especially proud of the baby’s mum, 28-year-old Flora, who has been battling cancer. Flora was featured in ITV’s documentary series ‘The Zoo’ last year, and although she is still living with a tumour in her mouth, vets say she has responded fantastically well to the treatment and the cancer did not affect her pregnancy at all.
The tiny hippo calf is a particularly welcome addition to the Zoo because there is a shortage of male pygmy hippos within the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme.
Senior Keeper Steve White said: “Flora’s calf was due on Christmas Day, but the little one kept us waiting until the evening of Boxing Day. We knew Flora must be going into labour because she went off her food – which never happens! After a six hour labour, the calf was born, a 7 kilo, perfect miniature of his mum. Since then, the baby hippo has been happily waddling around and seems to love spending time in water. On his first weigh-in, he was so slippery it was like picking up a big bar of soap!
“We’re delighted for Flora, who has come through a difficult year and is now proving once again to be an attentive, experienced mum. She’s contributed three calves to the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme and she’ll now retire from breeding.”
Pygmy hippos (Choeropsis liberiensis) are classified as Endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and teams at international conservation charity ZSL are working in Liberia and Sierra Leone to research and protect the species.