Have you ever heard of a hippopotamus that’s smaller than many cats? Olivia, one of the newest residents at Sweden’s Parken Zoo, was born weighing just 13 pounds, pretty much the opposite of what the word ‘hippo’ brings to mind. She’s a pygmy hippo, a species native to the forests and swamps of West Africa that weighs less than 1/4 than its larger, more well-known cousins.
With her cute little chubby limbs calling to mind those of a human infant, Olivia’s getting lots of attention for a species that’s in grave danger of extinction. There are fewer than 3,000 remaining in the wild, threatened mostly by loss of habitat as well as poaching, hunting, war and natural predators like leopards and crocodiles. Thankfully, Olivia is one example of the fact that they breed well in captivity, and most research on the species is derived from animals like her.
Unlike larger hippos, which can reach an astonishing 4,400 pounds, pygmy hippos are less than three feet high at the shoulder and generally don’t get larger than 600 pounds. They spend less time in deep water than their relatives, too, leading to adaptations like smaller eyes and nostrils. In the wild, they spend most of their days hiding in rivers, sometimes creating dens or burrows in the banks.
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