Rare hippo born at zoo

2009-07-04 11:37

London - A rare pygmy hippopotamus has been born at Edinburgh Zoo, officials said on Friday.

Leishan, a West African word meaning "gift", was born to Otto and Ellen on May 9, the zoo said.

Pygmy hippos are found only in West Africa, where they are now critically endangered.

Their primary threat is the loss of their forest habitat due to the timber industry and they are hunted extensively for their meat.

"Ellen is proving to be a great mum to Leishan," said Darren McGarry, animal collection manager at the zoo.

"The calf has gradually been gaining weight and she is now old enough to begin exploring her enclosure and can be seen by visitors.

"A pygmy hippo baby is an exciting addition for us," added McGarry, who also sits on the European Endangered Programme Committee for the species.

"This baby will be very popular with visitors to Edinburgh Zoo.

"Its birth will also contribute to the sustainable breeding of the pygmy hippo species both in the UK and Europe.

"Edinburgh Zoo is only one of a few zoos in the UK to care for this species and we have a particularly successful breeding record, having produced 16 hippo calves in less than 30 years."