Greensboro, N.C. – – In a moment of pure delight and excitement, the Greensboro Science Center (GSC) is thrilled to announce the birth of a precious pygmy hippo calf. The calf was born on May 24, 2023 to Holly (female) and Ralph (male), a pair recommended for breeding by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program, marking a significant milestone in the GSC’s most recent zoo expansion, Revolution Ridge. This is the first pygmy hippo born at the GSC.
Jessica Hoffman, the GSC’s VP of Animal Health & Welfare says, “When we decided on pygmy hippos as a species choice for Revolution Ridge, it was our intention to build an exhibit that would best support a breeding program. With only ten breeding pairs of pygmy hippos within AZA institutions, we knew this would be a monumental milestone if Ralph and Holly were successful.” Hoffman continues, “We have been monitoring Holly’s pregnancy through the duration of her gestation, but with a first time mom, we remained cautious. We collectively released a huge sigh of relief and cheered when we saw our adorable new calf take its first steps. Holly is proving to be a very vigilant and caring mother, and we can’t wait for our GSC community to meet this latest addition!”
Pygmy hippopotamuses (Choeropsis liberiensis) are much smaller than their cousin, the common river hippopotamus. By comparison, common river hippos weigh between 2,900 and 4,000 pounds, whereas pygmy hippos weigh between 350 and 600 pounds. At around five months old, pygmy hippos calves are about ten times their weight at birth. Pygmy hippos are native to West Africa and are considered endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. It is estimated fewer than 2,500 adult pygmy hippos remain in the wild.
Revolution Ridge, the Greensboro Science Center’s largest expansion to-date, opened in June of 2021 to record crowds. The 12-acre, 10-exhibit expansion was designed to be a breeding center for unique and endangered wildlife from all over the world.
“Revolution Ridge was built with the intention of bringing awareness to endangered species and understanding why those species are so valuable to our world. Many of the animal exhibits were designed to support breeding programs and it is quite a testament that, within a little more than two years, the GSC is now home to its first pygmy hippo calf. This birth will continue to spark greater awareness about protecting life’s magnificent diversity within the animal kingdom,” states Beth Hemphill, the GSC’s Chief Operating Officer.
Mike Motsch, the GSC’s Lead Pygmy Hippo Keeper says, “Animal care staff and veterinary staff have worked diligently, providing amazing care day in and day out to set Holly up for success as a first time mom. She has received incredible prenatal care the past six months through vet exams, ultrasounds and training to make this extra level of care possible.” Motsch continues, “Holly is a hippo with a bold personality, while Ralph is an easy going individual and we are excited to see what personality comes through in their offspring.”