One of Bristol Zoo’s most endangered youngsters has reached six-months-old and weighs around the same as 300 blueberry muffins.
Hugo, the pygmy hippo, was born at the Zoo in August last year and keepers say he is becoming increasingly confident and playful.
Although he still has regular milk feeds from mum Sirana, he is also said to love vegetables – especially aubergine.
Sirana, who is 11-years-old, is a very confident mother and the pair have a very close relationship.
Sarah Gedman, mammal section team leader, said: “Hugo’s favourite thing to do is to play with mum as he is a boisterous boy. Sirana will often playfully nudge Hugo around when they are both in their heated pool.
“Hugo is getting quite big now. As he grows he becomes more and more independent and is choosing to spend time on the other side of the pool from Sirana.
“He’s is very clever and is quickly learning behaviours such as opening his mouth on command so that keepers can monitor the development of his teeth.”
Pygmy hippos are weaned between six and eight months so the process for Hugo is likely to begin over the next few weeks.
Hugo will stay with Sirana until he is fully weaned and for as long as they continue to enjoy each other’s company.
The Hippo House at Bristol Zoo has the space and facilities to allow Sirana and Hugo to spend time apart in separate night dens if needed, however, keepers say the pair are still very happy to snuggle up together.
“As the weather gets warmer Hugo and his mum will spend more and more time outdoors in their paddock”, added Sarah.
“Pygmy hippos are native to West Africa and enjoy very warm conditions so I am sure guests will be able to see them sunbathing outside over the next few months.”
Hugo’s father Nato was sadly euthanized earlier this year after a long battle with arthritis and suspected skin cancer. Both Sirana and Hugo are said to have coped well with his loss, with Sirana focusing on bringing up her little calf.
The pygmy hippo has been assessed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is thought less than 2,000 of these animals survive in the wild.
In Liberia, destruction of forests surrounding the Sapo National Park by logging companies is damaging one of the few remaining strongholds for the pygmy hippo. Bristol Zoo Gardens is part of an international captive breeding programme for the species.
Pygmy hippos are, as the name suggests, much smaller than the common hippopotamus, with proportionally longer legs, a smaller head, less prominent eyes and ears more towards the side of the head. The pygmy hippo's nose and ears can be closed underwater, an adaptation to aquatic life.