It’s a Boy! San Diego Zoo Announces Birth of Endangered Pygmy Hippo

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Endangered Pygmy Hippo Born at San Diego Zoo

Last month, after days of anticipation, Mabel, a 4-year-old pygmy hippopotamus at the San Diego Zoo, gave birth to her first calf. The male pygmy hippo calf was born just before 9 a.m. on April 9, and weighed 12.4 pounds. This is the first successful pygmy hippo birth at the Zoo in more than 30 years.
Wildlife care specialists report that the calf, which has not yet been named, is nursing and getting lots of attention from the first-time mother—and it is meeting or surpassing the milestones for a young pygmy hippo, including the ability to go underwater. When mom and her calf were given access to the outdoor maternity habitat, staff added a fence to prevent the calf from venturing into too-deep water. The calf demonstrated the natural adaptations and instincts of pygmy hippos—to close their nostrils and to hold their breath under water—and today, both Mabel and the calf, who weighs 25 pounds, have full access to the pool in the maternity yard.
Pygmy hippos are one of hundreds of endangered species the staff at San Diego Zoo Global is working to protect from extinction, and in recognition of Endangered Species Day—May 15, 2020—the organization is celebrating its supporters who make this work possible. Every member, donor or volunteer—and anyone who has visited the San Diego Zoo or San Diego Zoo Safari Park—has contributed to San Diego Zoo Global’s work to save species worldwide. To learn more about the conservation work that is made possible by this support, visit This page also features links to engaging wildlife cams, activities for kids, free online educational courses and ways to participate in citizen science projects from any home computer or smartphone, to help researchers gather important information on threatened and endangered species.

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The San Diego Zoo has announced the latest addition of its wild family – a male pygmy hippopotamus whose successful birth was the first of its kind at the zoo in more than 30 years.

The zoo welcomed the new bundle of joy on April 9, when 4-year-old pygmy hippopotamus Mabel gave birth in an indoor habitat for her species. Mabel, who is a first-time mother, gave birth to a 12.4 pound calf who is doing well, according to the zoo.

“Mom and calf are doing very well, they said – and the calf is nursing and getting lots of attention from the first-time mother,” San Diego Zoo Global said in a statement.

Within just a few hours of being born, the calf was able to walk and follow his mother around. He’s been “surpassing the milestones that wildlife care specialists watch for in a young pygmy hippo,” the zoo said.

The month-old calf, who does not yet have a name, has been able to successfully explore water and demonstrated hippo instincts to close his nostrils and hold his breath under water. With that, wildlife specialists granted the young hippopotamus full access to the pool in the maternity yard.

Zoo officials said it will be about another month for Mabel and the calf to have access to the main habitat.

Because hippos don’t live in family groups, the now 25-pound calf will not be introduced to his father since they do not play a role in raising offspring, the zoo said.

Pygmy hippos are an endangered species that are found in only four countries: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire. There are fewer than 2,500 pygmy hippos in the wild due to threats that include farming, human settlement in its environment and logging.

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