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Waiting Game for Pygmy Hippo

1 August 2014

Zoo Pygmy Hippo Keepers now have a month to wait before any indication of whether the introduction of Petre and Felix this week has been successful.

As the two spent so much time under water, there were no confirmed matings, but there is a possibility that the two did mate.

Keepers were delighted, however, that the two hippos met without showing any signs of aggression towards each other, as this is a largely solitary forest species.

The time a mother spends with her calf is the exception to the usual solitary lifestyle.

The other time when they seek each other out is of course when a female comes into breeding season.

At other times, a female does not welcome advances from a male.

That’s why it was so important for Keepers to monitor the behaviours of the hippos to ensure that the introduction was made when Petre was in oestrus to avoid aggressive interactions and ideally to promote a successful mating.

The gestation time for a Pygmy Hippo is between 185 and 210 days.  

The Zoo’s most recent Pygmy Hippo calf was born in 1981, so Keepers are very excited at the prospect that there may be a third hippo in their care in February or March. 

At age 29, Petre is an experienced breeder, having given birth to four calves, but seven-year-old Felix has not bred previously.

Melbourne Zoo belongs to the regional breeding program for this threatened species, which are also displayed at Taronga Zoo.

There are only about 3,000 Pygmy Hippos left in the wild, but there are another 300 in the zoos around the world cooperating in this breeding program.