Watch out, Fiona — there’s a new baby hippo on the scene, and she has totally stolen our hearts. Zookeepers at the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida, welcomed a rare female pygmy hippo calf on December 1 — an early Christmas present. We’ve waited impatiently to learn baby girl’s name, and the zoo has finally revealed the holiday-themed moniker: Holly Berry!
Holly Berry, who is mother Zsa Zsa’s fourth baby and fourth girl, is now a hefty 35 pounds. The Lowry Park Zoo accepted name submissions earlier this month, and the winning name was written in by a man named Jordan Thurmond. To celebrate the hippo’s new name, the zoo partnered with The Hyppo, a gourmet ice pop company with several locations in the Tampa Bay area, and offered delicious watermelon, honeydew basil, and cantaloupe mint icy treats at the name-unveiling ceremony. Pygmy hippos apparently enjoy melon, and mother Zsa Zsa in particular loves this fruit.
What’s the reason for all the excitement (well, other than because Holly Berry is just so dang cute)? The pygmy hippopotamus is endangered, and this newborn calf is one of 32 pygmy hippos in the zoo’s Species Survival Program. “Pygmy hippos are elusive and extremely rare in the wild, with only a few thousand thought to be left in the world,” Chris Massaro, Lowry Park Zoo’s general curator said in a news release. “We’re one of only 13 zoos in the United States to care for this unique species, so this birth is especially important for us, and the entire Pygmy hippo population.”
So cute! Visit Holly Berry at the Ituri Forest located in the Safari Africa section of Lowry Park Zoo. Right now, they’re even running a special offer for active military, first responders and Florida residents.
Keep scrolling to see more cute photos of mom and baby.
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Wherever mama goes, baby isn't far behind! "For the first three weeks, we really wanted Mom and Baby to have time to bond, and us knowing what sex it was wasn't as important as them having time together," Lee Ann Rottman, vice president of conservation at the zoo said. "So last weekend, staff were able to separate Mom and Baby very temporarily. Because [zoo staff] have such a good relationship with these animals, it was very little stress, and Baby actually had a little bit of fun with it. But they were able to jump in, check out the sex, and get back out and make sure everything was good, and Baby went right back with Mom."
Though the three-week wait was tough, we're lucky it didn't take that long. In 2015, the San Diego Zoo had to wait seven weeks — almost two months! — before announcing the sex of their newest calf because Mom would tuck the baby away in the exhibit's vegetation or shield it behind her. Eventually, zookeepers learned that Funai, the mother hippo, had given birth to a girl, which they named Devi.
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How delicious are those little rolls?! Hippos can spend up to 16 hours every day in the water, according to National Geographic, and Lowry Park Zoo's newest pygmy hippo already looks right at home. "These guys are born to swim, and she got right into the water and [started] swimming around. Very natural — it comes very natural to them. She's not having any problem navigating the pool," Massaro said in a video interview on the Lowry Park Zoo Facebook posted at the beginning of December.
Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that Massaro seemingly referred to the calf as "she." Was that an early Christmas present to people who were paying close attention?
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Though this little nugget is only 35 pounds, she will eventually grow to be between 350 and 600 pounds and stand three feet tall — not so pygmy if you ask us!
That said, female Nile hippos — which is what Fiona the hippo is — weigh an average of 3,000 pounds, and male Nile hippos
breaktip the scales at anywhere between 3,500 and 9,200 pounds. Really puts things in perspective, doesn't it?
In addition to the size difference, another point of contrast between pygmy hippos and their larger relatives is the mouth shape; the pygmy hippopotami have a narrower mouth.
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Pygmy hippos breed as monogamous pairs, and Zsa Zsa's mate is Pogo, another male pygmy hippo. Though the common hippopotamus can only mate and give birth in the water, pygmy hippos can do both either on land or in the water. A pygmy hippo's gestational period typically lasts between 190 and 210 days — about six months.
Zsa Zsa also gave birth in 2014 to a girl. The zoo held an online poll to decide the calf's name, and "Zuri," an African word meaning "beautiful," won the popular vote. According to the zoo's website, "Zuri loves her mom, the pool, and naps in the sunshine!" Us too, Zuri. Us, too!
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According to the zoo, pygmy hippos are much rarer than their Nile hippo relatives, and they prefer to live in solitary rather than in large pods. You can find pygmy hippos in their natural habitat mainly in Liberia and West Africa, as well as pockets of the surrounding countries.
These nocturnal creatures are considered endangered, and some estimates put the number of pygmy hippos left in the wild at around 2,000. Experts blame the loss of habitat as well as a the fact that hippos are hunted for their meat for the decline in numbers. How could you eat something so cute?!
Fortunately, programs like the one at Lowry Park Zoo are determined to help bring those numbers back up, which is why the birth of this little calf is such a big (and cute!) deal.
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Though we love the name Holly Berry, some of our other favorite suggestions included the names
Betty, Betsy, Henrietta, Noodle, Ollie, Pickle, Shrek, and Teeny. Shrek probably would have worked best if Holly were a boy, but we still think its kinda fun! Do you like Holly Berry or would you have chosen something else?