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Pygmy hippo born at Franklin Park Zoo for the first ever

This pygmy hippopotamus was born on Oct. 5 at the Franklin Park Zoo.Zoo New England

A pygmy hippopotamus was born at the Franklin Park Zoo for the first time ever on Oct. 5, officials said.

The 13-pound male calf, which has yet to be named, has been bonding behind the scenes with his mother, Cleo, before making his exhibit debut, Zoo New England officials said in a news release.

His arrival marked the first ever successful birth of this endangered species at the Franklin Park Zoo, officials said.

Zoo officials said they learned of Cleo’s pregnancy on March 2 and ultrasounds were conducted to monitor the baby’s development. Because Cleo gave birth to stillborn calves in 2018 and 2019, the decision was made to induce her so that the veterinary team could assist her if needed, zoo officials said in the statement.


She received her first hormone injection to prepare her for labor on Oct. 3, followed by a second injection 24 hours later. After Cleo began showing signs of labor but no contractions, and oxytocin injections were not effective to induce contractions, the veterinary team manually delivered the calf, officials said.

“The calf was immediately so bright, strong and aware, and was holding his head up right away. The calf was introduced to Cleo soon after birth and was nursing within a few hours,” said Dr. Eric Baitchman, vice president of animal health and conservation at Zoo New England, said in the news release. “Each new birth contributes to the continued survival of this endangered species, and we are thrilled by this success. This is the result of years of teamwork and commitment, and I am incredibly proud of the Zoo team. We are also grateful to Dr. Carlos Gradil, a veterinary reproductive specialist in the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who also holds an adjunct appointment at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, for his expert guidance and assistance throughout Cleo’s pregnancy and delivery.”


Pygmy hippos are native to West African rainforests in the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Ivory Coast and Liberia, and because of their reclusive nature, they are difficult to count in the wild, zoo officials said. It is estimated that there are fewer than 2,500 of them left in their native habitat in West Africa, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.