Rare Pygmy Hippo Born in Paris Zoo

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A rare pygmy hippopotamus,Choeropsis liberiensis, was born in a zoo near Paris on 5 June 2007. Named Aldo, this pygmy hippo is approximately the size of a human baby. He is one of only a few dozen born in Europe, bred by a special program to increase the numbers of the rare species. [larger].

A rare pygmy hippopotamus,Choeropsis liberiensis, was born in a Paris zoo on 5 June 2007 after a 199-day gestation period. Named Aldo, this pygmy hippo is approximately the size of a human baby at 53 centimeters (21 inches) long and weighing 22 pounds.

"Aldo, when he was born, weighed between four and five kilos," said Juliane Villenain, a biologist at the zoo in the Bois de Vincennes, which is part of the Museum of Natural History. "A week ago we were able to weigh him and he had doubled his weight because he was at ten kilos. So he's growing very well."

The pygmy hippo is, as its name implies, much smaller than their larger relatives, the hippopotamus. Pygmy hippos weigh between 352 and 606 pounds, whereas hippos tip the scales at an astonishing 3.3 tons. Also unlike their much larger and more gregarious relatives, pygmy hippos lead solitary lives except during breeding season. The female takes care of her newborn calf alone.

According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), pygmy hippos have already disappeared from Nigeria, where they were native. It's estimated that 2,000 to 3,000 pygmy hippos currently live in the wild, and most of them can be found in west African countries such as Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau or Liberia, said Villenain. Additionally, only 110 pygmy hippos are kept in captivity in Europe. Aldo is one of only a few dozen pygmy hippos born in Europe, thanks to the efforts of a special program that focuses on increase the numbers of this rare species. Aldo's mother, Anais, has been productive because Aldo has two older brothers; now 7 and 6 years old, who live in Spain and Britain.

"Aldo is being sheltered from the public because he needs a calm space with his mother," Bertrand-Pierre Galey, Director of the Museum of Natural History. "In a few weeks, the visitors can see him, as they always love to come here to see the young animals."

Aldo with his mother, Anais.

Besides drinking his mother's milk, Aldo also enjoys alfalfa, carrots, apples and a variety of vegetables. Captive pygmy hippos are also fed special grainy feed that is specially formulated for them.

The fact that Aldo is a male is good news to the European breeding program. Since the project started in the early 90s, there have been 46 males born and 66 females. Aldo is the 47th male of the species to be born in captivity.

Portrait of a baby pygmy hippo [larger].


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