In the early hours of last Thursday morning, The Cango Wildlife Ranch in South Africa welcomed a new little fresh-faced baby. Hilda and Herbert, the Pygmy Hippopotamus pair had successfully mated and gifted the ranch with a beautiful 5.1kg healthy baby boy named Harry.
Hilda's water broke last Wednesday afternoon, creating much excitement and anticipation on the ranch. Immediately Hilda and Herbert were separated, making it easier for staff to observe Hilda. The Hippo pond was drained as well to eliminate the risk of her giving birth in the water. Ranch Director, Rob Hall, and Reptile Curator, Neal Martin monitored Hilda throughout Wednesday night...quietly watching her from a safe distance. After a long and uncomfortable night Rob and Neal dozed off just after 5h30 and awoke just less than an hour later, only to discover that Hilda had just given birth! They quietly observed the mother and baby for some time. Hilda was clearly exhausted!
Photo credits: Cango Wildlife Reserve
The Pygmy Hippopotamus' wild population is classified as critically endangered. There are fewer than 3000 left in the wild. They hail from West Africa, mainly confined to Liberia, with small numbers in the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast. So for Cango Wildlife Ranch, from Oudtshoorn South Africa, to successfully breed another endangered species is a very proud moment for all involved.
Read more beneath the fold.
Based on history, Hilda does not have the best track record when it comes to her 'motherly skills' - she could be a great mom, however, she unfortunately lacks the skill of feeding her babies. Just days earlier staff attempted to milk Hilda in order to collect colostrum, should they be in a situation were they have to remove the baby. Hilda made this very difficult and after collecting just a few milliliters staff realized they would have to make another plan. Colostrum (the first milk) is vitally important for a baby as it contains antibodies to protect the newborn against disease, as well as being lower in fat and higher in protein than ordinary milk. Luckily, cow’s colostrum is a fantastic replacement for hippo colostrum, which was great news as it was readily available.
The mother and calf were closely monitored, and after 5 hours of no feeding, the decision was made to pull the calf from its mom in the hopes of his survival. Harry was immediately weighed, wrapped in blankets and transported to the hand-rearing facility where he was fed. He is being hand-reared by very loving curator and caretaker, Toni Inggs. Hilda's delayed birth raised much concern at the time, but park officials are proud to announce that both mom and baby are doing exceptionally well and they hope to introduce them to the public in the near future.
Of course, giving birth can take quite a lot out of any animal, therefore Hilda is on a special diet which is rich in nutrients. Harry spent his first 3 days on colostrum, and has since been weaned onto his staple diet consisting of an ideal milk and water solution.
Harry was named after Prince Harry of Wales, for his true grit spirit, and for his love and passion for Africa and its wildlife.