Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 1st, 2007
(Photo by Jacques Brinon)
Posting a baby picture is always a good idea on a Sunday on the first day of the month.
Here, Anais, the mother hippo, keeps an eye on her son Aldo, a three-week-old pygmy hippopotamus, (Choeropsis liberiensis), at the Vincennes zoo, outside Paris, on Tuesday, June 26, 2007.
Aldo looks, eats and takes it easy like a hippopotamus. But he is only about as big as a human baby, at 21 inches.
This pygmy hippopotamus, born on June 5, is one of only a few dozen in Europe, bred in a special program to boost the rare species, since less than 3000 now live in the wild. His older brothers, now 7 and 6 years old, live in Spain and Britain. The fact that Aldo is a male is good news to the European breeding program. Since the project started in the early 90s, there have been 46 males born and 66 females. Aldo is the 47th male of the species in captivity.
The pygmy hippopotamus, as I have mentioned before, is a good example of a little-remembered cryptozoological success story.
The account begins with Karl Hagenbeck, a famous German animal dealer, who established a zoological garden near Hamburg, the prototype of the modern open-air zoo. In 1909, Hagenbeek sent German naturalist-explorer Hans Schomburgk to Liberia to check on rumors about the nigbwe, a “giant black pig.”
After two years of jungle pursuit Schomburgk finally spotted the animal 30 feet in front of him. It was big, shiny, and black, but the animal clearly was related to the hippopotamus, not the pig. Unable to catch it, he went home to Hamburg empty-handed.
Finally, in 1912, Schomburgk returned to Liberia and, to the dismay of his critics, captured a pygmy hippopotamus on March 1, 1913, and then returned to Europe in August with five live pygmy hippos.