Fergus and Kambiri, two young endangered Pygmy Hippos, met face-to-face for the first time on Thursday and if the pictures are anything to go by, the pair are a match made in heaven.
Usually living in adjacent exhibits at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo, keepers decided that with Kambiri showing signs that she was ready to mate, it was time for her to be introduced to Fergus as part of the Zoo’s conservation breeding program.
While it may look like the pair are enjoying a romantic first kiss in the pictures, keeper Johny Wade said that it is part of their normal interaction.
“They interact with their noses and also show their strength and dominance with open mouth gesturing,” he said.
Pygmy Hippos, which are half as tall as the Common Hippopotamus, are native to the forests and swamps of West Africa, living a solitary life and generally only coming together for breeding.
While the hippos will continue to enjoy daily introductions over the next two weeks, keepers have been delighted with the behaviours shown during their first encounter.
“We didn’t see any aggressive behaviour. They were playful and excited by the interactions, playing in the water together and having a little chase around on land,” Wade said.
There are as little as 3000 Pygmy Hippos remaining in the wild in just four countries in West Africa and if Fergus and Kambiri successfully mate, the birth will be an important addition to the region’s insurance population for the endangered species.
“These elusive animals continue to be threatened by loss of habitat as their forest homes are logged and converted to farmland,” Wade said.
“They are also vulnerable to poaching, hunting and civil unrest.”