Bristol Zoo Gardens’ pygmy hippo Hugo maybe just 15 months old but his is helping to safeguard the future of his species.
In the wild the fate of pygmy hippos is hanging in the balance with fewer than 2,000 of them left.
Even in Liberia where pygmy hippos once thrived, their future is in doubt thanks to logging companies which have destroyed forests surrounding the Sapo National Park.
Forest fragmentation, poaching and civil conflict have also contributed to the pygmy hippos’ precarious situation.
Pygmy hippos, which grow to just one metre high, are on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List where they are classified as endangered.
So, zoo breeding programmes, like the one Bristol Zoo is involved with, are vitally important.
John Partridge, senior curator of animals at Bristol Zoo who once hand-reared a pygmy hippo, said: “We are maintaining a population in human care to help bolster the world-wide number of pygmy hippos.”
Bristol Zoo’s involvement doesn’t just involve breeding this amazing species, John is a member of the European species committee for the pygmy hippo.
This committee comprises zoo curators and biologists and advises on general husbandry, enclosure design and discusses and approves the transfer of animals between zoos to ensure the best genetic match for future generations of hippos.
Hugo and his mum, Sirana, are thankfully safe at Bristol Zoo but she still keeps a close eye on him and even though he is growing up fast Hugo still enjoys a cuddle with his mum.
Bristol Zoo Gardens is a conservation and education charity and relies on the generous support of the public not only to fund its important work in the Zoo but also its vital conservation and research projects spanning five continents.