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Pygmy Hippo Mom & Baby Celebrate Mother's Day

Pygmy hippo mom Ellen with her new calf, Eve
Pygmy hippo mom Ellen with her new calf, Eve, at the Edinburgh Zoo. (Image credit: Edinburgh Zoo)

A pygmy hippo at the Edinburgh Zoo is celebrating Mother's Day (March 18 this year in the UK) by introducing her baby calf to their outdoor enclosure at the hippo house.

Ellen gave birth to baby Eve on Dec. 31, 2011, squeaking in as the zoo's last birth of 2011.

"Eve is a little shy and tends to stick close to mum. This week we've started to see Eve follow her mum into their outdoor enclosure and she’s growing in confidence every day," said senior primate and hoofstock keeper, Donald Gow.

Pygmy hippos, native to West Africa, are strong swimmers and are perfectly adapted to the water, with muscular valves that close their ears and nostrils when submerged. But surprisingly, given their affinity to water, baby pygmy hippos have to be taught to swim.

"With a little help from her mum, Eve even tackled swimming just a few days after she was born," Gow said. [More images of the pygmy hippos .]

The pygmy hippos is only half as tall as its full-size cousin and ways a quarter as much. Adult pygmy hippos stand about 30–32 inches (75–83 centimeters) high at the shoulder, are 59–70 inches (150–177 cm) in length and weigh 400–600 pounds (180–275 kilograms).

Pygmy hippos can live between 30 and 55 years. The species is considered engangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, an independent international body that assesses the conservation status of species around the world.

"Pygmy hippos are endangered in the wild and numbers are declining, so it's fantastic that Edinburgh Zoo has such a natural mum like Ellen. She's got great maternal instincts," Gow said.

Eve is Ellen's second calf, her first was another girl called Leishan born in 2009.

Live Science Staff
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