The pygmy hippo is well adapted to life in the water spending the majority of its time in the pools of the Semi Aquatic Mammal house close to the snow leopards.
Its stocky legs, each with 4 spreading toes, act as paddles, to propel it along. Its eyes, ears and nostrils are all positioned well up on the head, so the hippo can see, hear and breathe in comfort when its whole body is submerged. The pygmy hippo’s thick, hairless hide is coated with clear, sticky mucus, secreted from special glands which acts as a skin lubricant and sun screen.
Unlike its larger cousin, the common hippopotamus, the pygmy hippo lives a solitary life. Births take place on land, and the whole process lasts only a few minutes. After about half an hour the calf is on its feet, ready to suckle. In time it learns to swim and to hold its breath, so it can then nurse under water.
Our Brazilian tapirs live in the neighbouring paddock to the pygmy hippos and also enjoy a dip in the SAM house pond. They are able to stay submerged for hours using their long noses to breathe underwater like snorkels! Heading down South road you’ll encounter collared peccaries with pig-like snouts (although they’re not classified as pigs!); capybara (the world’s largest living rodent from South America), greater rhea and giant anteaters.
Our pygmy hippos make exceptionally cute adoptions? Wendy is a firm favourite on our Go Wild children’s adoption scheme but if you’re struggling to choose (or are older than 16!) then our adult scheme has pygmy hippo, tapir and anteater adoptions too!