Tanganyika Wildlife Park welcomes pygmy hippo

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GODDARD, Kan. (KAKE) -

Tanganyika Wildlife Park has welcomed its first pygmy hippo born in Kansas. 

The new baby is believed to be a girl, born to its pygmy hippo parents, mom, Posie, and dad, Pluto.  The baby weighs approximately 13 pounds and is currently the size of a shoebox.

"Mom is going to find a spot well-protected along the river bank, secluded, go out and swim, forage a little. But at the end of the day she's going to come back and check on that baby," said Derrick Maltman, Zookeeper at the park.

Tanganyika Wildlife Park’s pygmy hippos are the first and only in Kansas, and the first to give birth in Kansas.

There are only 70 pygmies in the United States and approximately 3,000 on the planet. The biggest threat to their populations is hunting and deforestation. 

For Tanganyika as a breeding facility, this is a huge milestone,” the Park’s Assistant Director Matt Fouts said. “This marks Tanganyika’s 40th successful breeding program for rare and endangered species. We knew their population wasn't real big, that it wasn't doing really well”

The new baby will be on exhibit at Tanganyika starting Saturday, July 8. The park is located at 1000 South Hawkins Lane in Goddard.

"Even if this is the only one we ever have, which I don't think it will be, we're super happy for it," Fouts said.

The park released the following additional information:

The birth of the pygmy hippo was several years in the making. In 2011, as Tanganyika was looking to expand and add to its collection, Jim Fouts, the Park’s Director, was considering common hippos. However, he decided to focus on pygmy hippos because their physical size was more conducive to the available space and their wild population was in decline. In 2008, they were placed on the endangered species list and in 2014 the International Studbook for pygmy hippos conducted a census that determined the age structure of the captive population was unhealthy. In other words, there was a lack of young animals to ensure their preservation.

In 2012, Jim began his search and had to look internationally due to the small availability of pygmy hippos in the U.S. He was able to secure a male from Indonesia after two years of searching.  In 2014, he traded the male for another male in Florida and received a female on a breeding loan. Both Posie and Pluto were too young to breed, so they would have to wait two more years before they reached sexual maturity. They were introduced to each other in July of 2016 and now Tanganyika Wildlife Park is home to three pygmy hippos.

In the wild, pygmy hippos can be found in West Africa. They inhabit rivers and swamps in dense lowland forests and have several adaptations for living in aquatic environments. Though pygmy hippos spend most of their time in the water, calves are born on land. At birth, calves weigh 7.5 to 14 pounds. For the first few weeks after birth, pygmy hippo calves cannot walk well, so the mother will tuck her baby away in tall grass or bushes while she feeds. Calves can nurse on land or underwater. These herbivores feed on a wide variety of roots, grasses, leaves, shoots, and fruits. At first glance, the pygmy hippo may look like a miniaturized version of the common hippopotamus. Common hippos do weigh about 10 times as much as a pygmy hippo, but there are more differences than just size.

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