In the early hours of last thursday morning, the 22nd of March, a tiny pygmy hippo was born in a dusty Karoo town in South Africa. Harry, named after the Prince because of his love for Africa and its animals, popped out into the world at the Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudsthoorn, where director Rob Hall and reptile curator Neal Martin were on stand-by all night after his mother Hilda’s waters broke.
It was around 5:00am when Rob and Neal finally dozed off, and woke one hour later to find a fresh-faced baby hippopotamus had arrived. ‘Unfortunately Harry’s mum Hilda is not a great carer, she’s had children in the past and she hasn’t fed them properly, she even rolled over one of her babies’ says Public Relations Officer Tammy Moult. After five hours without feed, Rob and Neal made the decision to pull Harry from his mum and take him to be looked after at a special hand-rearing facility on the ranch.
At a healthy birth weight of 5.1 kg, Harry is now in the hands of his human carers and he certainly enjoys a regal way of living. Every three hours Harry is bottle fed a solution of cows milk/colustrum, after which he is given a bath to keep his skin moist. The bathing and feeding goes on throughout the night and after each bath Harry likes to snuggle down to a nap on his cushion. According to Tammy, Harry is still susceptible to germs and will remain isolated in the care of his handlers for the next two months. ‘Harry’s father Herbert is very territorial and has demonstrated shows of aggression to his previous babies, Harry’s handlers will need to monitor him carefully and slowly try to re-introduce him to his family’ says Tammy.
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Pygmy hippos are found in West Africa where they are now a threatened species due to habitat destruction and poaching. There are currently less than 3, 000 Pygmy Hippos left in the wild. Today the Pygmy Hippo is listed on Appendix II of Cites and classed as “Vulnerable”. National parks provide the only habitat where these tiny hippos are protected. Scientists at Sapo National Park in south eastern Liberia are proposing that the park be declared a biosphere reserve. Supported by funding from national and international organizations such as Cango, these efforts may help the pygmy hippo survive.