Virginia zoo gets rare hippopotamus for Christmas

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Image: Metro Richmond Zoo

A Virginia zoo welcomed the birth of a rare hippopotamus just in time for Christmas. 

A pygmy hippo was born at the Metro Richmond Zoo on Dec. 6 — the second time such an animal was born at the facility. 

The calf, which has yet to be named, was born after a seven-month gestation period. She weighed a healthy 16 pounds and, one week later, clocked in at 24.2 pounds. 

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A full-grown pygmy hippo can weigh up to 600 pounds — much less than the thousands of pounds that a full-grown common hippo can weigh. 

Pygmy hippos are one of the world’s rarest mammals, according to the World Animal Foundation

Pygmy hippos have a more compact build, shorter legs, and shorter tail. They are only found in a few remote locations in Africa.

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The pygmy hippo is listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

"With less than 2,500 mature individuals left in the wild, their survival in zoological parks is more certain than their survival in the wild," the Metro Richmond Zoo said. "This birth plays an important role in helping protect this fascinating and rare species."

Right now, the calf is being cared for by her mother, Iris. 


Image: Metro Richmond Zoo

They are staying in a "super cozy", hay-bedded enclosure that is off-exhibit, the zoo said, giving privacy to mom and baby while they bond. 

Soon, they will be moved into the indoor pool area that is visible to guests so the baby can start swimming.

This story was reported from Detroit.