Today Sapo, the cute pygmy hippo calf at Whipsnade Zoo, took his first dip in the outdoor pool! The calf has been named after the national park in Liberia where EDGE fellow, John Konie, managed to secure the first camera trap pictures of the species in that country. Now three months old, this pygmy hippo calf is an important addition to the European Endangered Species Programme and for the conservation of this species worldwide.
Pygmy hippos are endangered, and in the wild, their numbers have dwindled to less than 3,000. In 2007 the EDGE team highlighted the pygmy hippo as an EDGE Focal Species due to the limited conservation attention it was receiving. Since then we have supported an EDGE Fellow to carry out monitoring of pygmy hippos in Sapo National Park Liberia, as part of a wider biomonitoring programme established by Fauna and Flora International (FFI) and Liberia’s Forest Development Authority (FDA). In 2009 the IUCN SSC Hippo Specialist Group endorsed the creation of a pygmy hippo subgroup. In November 2010 a workshop, hosted by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Pygmy Hippo sub-group of the IUCN SSC Hippo Specialist Group, was held in Monrovia ,Liberia, West Africa. The result of the workshop was the realization of a conservation strategy for pygmy hippos. Sapo National Park is home to one of the largest remaining populations of pygmy hippos, and the information collected will help to inform the development of the park management plan, and ensure that conservation actions are appropriate.
Meanwhile at Whipsnade Zoo, Sapo is the first born calf to parents Flora and Tapon. When fully grown he will be a height up to 100cm/1m and will weigh more than 250kg. The calf’s mum Flora is being a star mother and helping her young son to thrive. The hungry hippo is now munching on grass and leaves in his outdoor paddock at the zoo.
Africa section team leader Mark Holden said: “To have a pygmy hippo born is fantastic, not only are they endangered, but pygmy hippos are really in vital need of protection to stop their numbers falling even more. The birth of Sapo will hopefully raise awareness of this wonderful animal and help its future survival in the wild.”