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Rare Pygmy Hippo Born in Athens Zoo

Pygmy Hippo
File photo of a baby pygmy hippo. Credit: , CC BY-ND 2.0

A rare and endangered pygmy hippo has been born in Athens’ Attica Zoological Park for the first time in 10 years, delighting conservationists.

A lack of male pygmy hippopotamus in captivity had complicated breeding efforts, so zoo staff were “absolutely thrilled” the baby was a boy, Noi Psaroudaki, the zoo’s wildlife veterinarian, told Reuters.

“This is the first birth in the zoo in 2024, and what a birth!” Psaroudaki said.

“Every captive birth of pygmy hippos is extremely important. We’re very happy to see this baby grow into a healthy adult hippo, and hopefully one day reproduce,” she told Reuters.

Pygmy hippos are native to swamps and rainforests in western Africa. They are listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and it is estimated only about 2,000-2,500 still live in the wild.

Weighing 7 kg (15.4 pounds), the male calf – whose name will go to a vote – was born on Feb. 19 and joins his parents Lizzie and Jamal as the only pygmy hippos at the zoo.

The hippo, solitary and nocturnal by nature, will remain with its mother for a couple of months until it ventures into the outdoor enclosure, Reuters reports.

Pygmy hippos roamed Greece thousands of years ago

A rare nocturnal forest creature, the pygmy hippopotamus is a difficult animal to study in the wild. Pygmy hippos were unknown outside West Africa until the 19th century. Introduced to zoos in the early 20th century, they breed well in captivity and the vast majority of research is derived from zoo specimens.

However, millennia ago pygmy hippopotamus were present even in Greece.  Archaeologists recently discovered ancient pygmy hippo fossils on the island of Crete which date back to 350,000 B.C.

The find was made at Katharo Plateau on the Dikti mountain in the east of the island by paleontologists from the University of Athens.

It marks the first time such a “high concentration of pygmy hippopotamus fossils” has been found in Greece. Paleontologist Giorgos Lyras, who worked on the excavation, told AFP that it was a “significant discovery.”

Other animals have been unearthed on Crete and the other Greek islands. Dwarf elephants were found to have lived in the Aegean islands, including Naxos and Rhodes. Fossils like these can inform researchers about the ecosystems that existed thousands of years ago.

Athens zoo welcomed rare red panda

Athens’ Attica Zoological Park had another celebration recently when a newly born red panda became an instant star.

The red panda also known as the lesser panda, is a small mammal native to the eastern Himalayas and southwestern China. It has dense reddish-brown fur with a black belly and legs, white-lined ears, a mostly white muzzle and a ringed tail.


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