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Pygmy hippo calf makes debut at Taronga zoo

A tiny watermelon on legs – otherwise known as a newborn pygmy hippo – has made her debut at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.

The ridiculously cute and chubby calf made her first public outing on Thursday, in time for the school holidays, delighting staff and visitors alike.

Zoo director Simon Duffy says baby pygmy hippos “are like a small watermelon on little, tiny legs”.

“They are so beautiful,” he said. 

The calf’s birth at the zoo last month was the first in four years, and marks another important moment for conservation efforts for the endangered West African species, senior keeper Renae Moss said.

“There’s fewer than 3000 of them left in the wild, so every birth in a zoo is extremely valuable to help bolster that population to ensure that we don’t lose the species all together,” she said.

The baby hippo has spent the last two weeks in an off-exhibit nursery den, learning to walk and swim under the watchful eye of her mum Kambiri.

Watching her graduate to the big exhibit was thrilling for Ms Moss who says the calf was initially hesitant to go into the pool, but eventually took the plunge with a little encouragement from mum.

“As the calf masters the art of swimming and becomes more confident in and out of the water, we will begin to increase the depth of the pool and remove some baby proofing,” she said.

The pint-sized newborn remains nameless and zookeepers are appealing to the public for help.

Options suggested by her keepers include Amara, which means ‘filled with beauty and grace’ and is of West African origin, Sierra after the country of Sierra Leone, and Sapo after the Sapo National Park in Sinoe County, Liberia.

Members of the public can submit their own suggestions through the zoo’s website.

By Tiffanie Turnbull in Sydney

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