San Francisco Zoo and Gardens recently became home to a 2-year-old male pygmy hippopotamus, the first of this endangered species here since 2004. Today, SF Zoo officials announced his name, “Udo,” (pronounced “Ooh-Dough”) which translates to “peace” in the Igbo language of West Africa.
“We are thrilled to welcome Udo to SF Zoo and Gardens,” said Tanya M. Peterson, CEO and Executive Director of San Francisco Zoological Society. “Although the pygmy hippo is much smaller than the larger river hippo, our Udo is big on personality! His presence here helps fulfill our mission to conserve animals such as the pygmy hippo by educating Zoo visitors about an endangered species whose numbers have declined drastically due to habitat loss and illegal hunting.”
Pygmy hippos (Choeropsis liberiensis) are native to the coastal northwestern African countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, living in remote forests, savanna and wetlands habitats. Pygmy hippos spend more time out of the water than river hippos and have different adaptations to help find food on land, such as less-webbed feet. Physically, the legs of pygmy hippos are proportionally longer, and they have smaller heads and mouths with only one pair of incisors. They stand 2½-3½ feet at the shoulder and are approximately 5-6 feet in length. They can weigh between 400-600 lbs., while a river hippo can weigh over 4,000 lbs.
According to Amy Phelps, Co-Vice President of Animal Care, “While pygmy hippos are primarily shy and nocturnal forest dwellers, Udo appears to be gregarious and curious. He is usually seen exploring his meadow habitat and swimming in his shallow pool that was previously home to a Nile river hippopotamus.” That hippo was moved to another zoo to breed as part of the Association of Zoo and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan.
Udo’s new home is located near other endangered African species found at SF Zoo and Gardens such as the African lion and black rhino. “Interestingly,” says Peterson, “Udo seems to have caught the attention of our snow leopards who can view him from the highest ridge of Snow Leopard Mountain.”
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