Rare baby hippo makes cute zoo debut in "momentous and exciting moment"

Athens, Greece - A new bundle of joy has arrived at Attica Zooligcal Park in Athens, where a pygmy hippopotamus was recently born. The addition is an important arrival for the survival of other animals like him.

Attica Zoological Park has a new baby pygmy hippopotamus on its hands.
Attica Zoological Park has a new baby pygmy hippopotamus on its hands.  © Facebook/Αττικό Ζωολογικό Πάρκο - Attica Zoological Park

The baby weighed just 15 pounds when it was born in mid-February, but is now said to have doubled its weight, according to the BBC.

His debut on Attica zoo's social media pages this week has fans all over the world gushing over his cuteness.

Alicia Hoogenboom, the main keeper of the Savannah area at the zoo, was ecstatic when she first discovered that the belly of her female hippopotamus was slightly larger than usual. A subsequent ultrasound confirmed that the only pair of pygmy hippos at Athens zoo were indeed pregnant.

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The birth is very special for a few reasons, as this species can be somewhat complicated to breed, according to wildlife expert Peter Gros, who called it a "momentous and exciting moment."

"Pygmy hippos typically give birth to a single calf after a gestation period of about 6 to 7 months, making this new baby a significant contribution" to repopulation efforts, he said.

Fortunately, the baby in Athens is doing well and the zoo has reported he is full of energy. The little hippo does not yet have a name, which will likely be decided soon by public vote.

Are pygmy hippos endangered?

Pygmy hippos, which occur naturally in the swamps and rainforests of West Africa, are listed as "endangered" on the IUCN's (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.

In Nigeria, these hippos are already considered extinct and it is estimated that there are only 2,000 to 2,500 of them left in the wild.

The species severely lacks males, so the birth of the new little male in Athens is of even greater significance.

Nevertheless, the number of pygmy hippos continues to fall, which makes every birth so important. Various zoos worldwide are working hard to build up the population once again.

Cover photo: Facebook/Αττικό Ζωολογικό Πάρκο - Attica Zoological Park

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