Pygmy hippo calf born at the Franklin Park Zoo

Staff from Zoo New England cared for a newborn baby pygmy hippo born last week at Franklin Park Zoo.

Cleopatra, a pygmy hippopotamus, gave birth to a 13-pound male calf at Dorchester’s Franklin Park Zoo a week ago Monday (Oct. 5).

It was a joyous moment marking the culmination of years of work, careful planning, and dedication by the animal care and veterinary teams. The tiny male calf is the first pygmy hippo born at Zoo New England.

The mom, affectionately known as Cleo, gave birth to stillborn calves in 2018 and 2019 due to prolonged labor. This time, it all worked out.

“The calf was immediately so bright, strong and aware, and was holding his head up right away. It was introduced to Cleo soon after birth and was nursing within a few hours,” said Dr. Eric Baitchman, Zoo New England Vice President of Animal Health and Conservation.

“Each new birth contributes to the continued survival of this endangered species, and we are thrilled by this success,” he added.”

Pygmy hippos are native to West African rainforests in the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, and Liberia. The species faces increasing threats, including shrinking natural habitat as the result of logging, farming, mining, and human settlement.

 Because of their reclusive nature, the hippos are difficult to count in the wild. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it is estimated that there are fewer than 2,500 individuals left in their native habitat in West Africa.