Hope the Hippo Comes to Louisville Zoo
Hope in the form of a pygmy hippopotamus came to Louisville recently and is the newest addition to the Louisville Zoo. Sixteen year-old Hope comes to Louisville from the Oklahoma City Zoo. A world traveleler, she was born at the Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland. Hope will join 17 year-old Maji Kitoto, the Zoo’s male pygmy Hippo, in their habitat in Gorilla Forest. She comes with a breeding recommendation from the SSP (Species Survival Plan), though there is no formal timeline set for a baby hippo just yet.
General Animal Curator Steven Wing says the 600 plus pound Hope “is an extremely good-natured hippo and likes to have her back scratched.” Hope will be on exhibit alternating with Maji.
There are two species of hippopotamus – the Nile River hippo and the Pygmy hippo. Both species secrete a protective mucous through their skin to keep it from drying out in the hot rays of the equatorial sun. Pygmies have proportionately longer legs with clawed toes rather than webbing and their eyes and nostrils face more to the side than their aquatic cousins. Their mouths and teeth are exaggerated in size. A large male Pygmy hippo can have canines reaching eight inches in length and weighing two pounds collectively. They use these massive teeth to defend themselves and protect their territories. Wide, tough lips also help hippos graze larger areas.
The pygmy hippo can be found in Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Guinea in Africa among moist forests and wetlands along lakeshores and rivers. They will usually weigh between 400 and 600 pounds (in comparison to the much larger Nile hippos that can weigh up to 8000 pounds) and get about 5 feet long and 2.5 to 3.5 feet tall. Their life expectancy is between 30 and 45 years in captivity.
The pygmy hippo is herbivorous and primarily forages for food in the cooler hours of the evening. While they search for food on the forest floor or in swamps, pygmy hippos also can stand on their hind legs to reach food in trees. In the wild they will consume a variety of fruits, aquatic vegetation, twigs, grasses and leaves. Hope and Maji eat fruit here at the Zoo too, along with a variety of other fresh produce and timothy hay.
Hippopotamus is a Greek term meaning “river horse.” Pygmy hippos are secretive and little is known about their social structure. They usually travel singularly, in pairs or in triads made up of male, female and calf. They spend the day hiding and sleeping in forest underbrush. Their main predators are leopards. At night they travel through the forests and swamps in search of food.
The Species Survival Plan or SSP is the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s or AZA’s cooperative breeding and conservation program. It is the cornerstone of efforts to assist endangered species. Institutions that agree to participate in SSP programs agree to manage their animals in the best interest in of the species. Each SSP manages the breeding of a species in order to maintain a healthy, self-sustaining captive population that is both genetically diverse and demographically stable. In addition, SSPs involve research, public education and field projects.
The Louisville Zoo, a non-profit organization and state zoo of Kentucky, is dedicated to bettering the bond between people and our planet by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in scientific research and conservation education. The Zoo is accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) and by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
kyle shepherd / media relations manager / louisville zoo
502.238.5331 (direct) / 502.744.5639 (media cell)