Friday, 8 August 2014

Special Offers - No. 2

How could I resist a special late summer evening "opening" to visit the home of Nato and Sirana my favourite species of animal in all the world? Our "inbox" gave us the opportunity to buy one ticket and get one free. These animals are nocturnal so an evening opening must surely be the best time to call, not only that but February saw Sirana give birth to an adorable little girl called Winnie, weighing in at 5kg - about the same size as a large human baby. 
An evening at Bristol Zoo, our destination, with keepers on hand to talk about important conservation work, and breeding projects involving both protecting and ultimately returning animals back to the wild. In principle I am not a lover of caged animals, but in the world today the zoo has an important role to play. Their emphasis has changed dramatically from that of the original Victorian concept. Today the animals have luxury accommodation with lots of space to encourage breeding and to support reintroduction back into the natural world.
My animals are native to the steamy forests and swamps of West Africa, primarily Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire. Rarely seen, being both reclusive and nocturnal, they are on the 'red alert' critically endangered list. The zoo makes regular visits overseas to encourage local people to view their native animals as special assets and not to kill them for bush meat. The animals in Africa also have to contend with conflict situations and habitat depletion.
Have you guessed what my favourite animal is? I know that my blogging friend Mark will be well aware of what species I am referring to - indeed he kindly gifted me one which can be seen at the bottom of my blog

meet the gorgeous Pygmy Hippo - Winnie
Proud mum Sirana and daughter
Being reclusive, nocturnal, solitary and living in dense jungle they have a totally different lifestyle to the common hippo which live in large groups, and can be seen wallowing in muddy lagoons all day long. Pygmy Hippos have a smaller head and less prominent eyes and ears, and rather cleverly can close their nose and ears when underwater. They are half as tall as the common hippos and weigh less than a quarter of a full sized hippo.
Recently I saw a film about a young female Zoologist who spent 6 months living in the jungle in a known Pygmy Hippo location. During all the time she was living amongst them she didn't catch a single glimpse of one in the flesh, and only managed to catch the odd one as it briefly activated her infrared night cameras which she had set up in the trees. 
Winnie is now six months old and has started to venture outside. She tends to stay close to her mother but is slowly beginning to forage for food outside in the Pygmy Hippo enclosure and swim in their outdoor pool.
Although Dad, Nato, lives alongside them, he plays no part in Winnie's upbringing. They have separate enclosures because of their preference to live a solitary life in the wild, he and Sirana only come together to breed.

42 comments:

  1. Smashing post. Delightful creatures. Thank you for sharing.

    Jean x

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  2. What a sweet photos of the little one and her mother. Thanks for your information about the gardener. I didn't know him, but he did a great job on the island. He made several thematic gardens there.

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    1. Linacullin along with the two gardens I mentioned are amongst is best.

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  3. Hello Rosemary,

    How sweet. Yes, indeed, an offer not to be missed and what an endearing sight to see. Good news. So very much needed these days!

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    1. Little Winnie's arrival was big news at the zoo, and a justifiable reason for them to celebrate.

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  4. Oh, he is so cute! Love the post Rosemary...
    Have a great weekend now, take care!
    Love, Titti

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    1. I am so pleased that you enjoyed seeing dear little Winnie - hope the sun shines for you this weekend Titti.

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  5. Wszystkie maleństwa czy ludzkie czy zwierzęce są takie słodkie :)
    Pozdrawiam

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    1. Masz rację, młodzi ludzie i młode zwierzęta są urocze

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  6. Dear Rosemary,

    I have loved hippos from the time I was so small that I described them as "lubbly." But this is actually my introduction to the Pygmy Hippo. Having now read about their extreme reclusiveness, I can understand why you were excited about this rare opportunity. Isn't their fleshy neck interesting? I wonder if the guide said anything about that coloring?

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    1. Dear Mark - no mention of the neck, but we were told that the skin contains special pores that secrete a pinkish substance known as 'blood sweat' which is thick and oily. It has a protective nature which allows the hippos to remain in water or in a dry atmosphere on land for extended periods.

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  7. I never realised hippos were so shiny. Somehow I always thought they shone because they were always wet, in rivers.

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    1. I think that is as a result of the special pores that I mentioned in the comment above to Mark.

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  8. Hello Rosemary
    Winnie is precious. Initially I thought she was a ceramic figure being so shiny. Thanks for sharing this information, I have learned from you, yet again.
    Have a great weekend
    Helen xx

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    1. Hello Helen - I am pleased that you enjoyed hearing about our lovely little Winnie - she is precious indeed.

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  9. Beautiful creatures indeed - if only mankind would concentrate on saving, caring and conserving.

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    1. One of their biggest dangers as I mentioned is being killed for bush meat. The zoo keepers have a hard task convincing the local natives that they have a precious resource which is of much more value to them living than being killed.

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  10. Well I think these are adorable compared to the better known and very dangerous large hippos! Rosemary, at first I thought you were showing us china ornaments - they are so shiny and colorful! I hope so much little Winnie thrives. Any idea how many there are in West Africa?

    I was aghast at the size of the regular hippos swimming around us in Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe - and refused to take a small canoe type boat ride when we were told how hippos can turn them over, grab you and drag you under - then the enormous crocs make a meal of you!!!! The big boat was fun though - 5 passengers and the captain with a powerful outboard just in case!

    Thanks for sharing your evening at the zoo. As you say, they are needed to help preserve some of the more endangered animals, however I have to admit I've not been to one since my two African safaris…..just hard for me after seeing the animals in their natural homes. In today's post you can see pics of some of the big cats I viewed - so utterly beautiful, and seeing them truly 'at home' has remained imprinted so strongly in my mind.
    Enjoy the weekend dear - I'm concerned for my family and friends in Devon if Bertha pays a visit!
    Hugs - Mary

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    1. Dear Mary - the weather is very calm and sunny - lovely day here so I suspect it must be the same in Devon. The East side of the country only seems to have had some heavy rainfalls.
      Yes, these 'little fellows' are a completely different kettle of fish to their large relatives. They are totally unaggressive and seem to be very self contained if left alone in the jungle to live out their solitary lives peacefully.
      Apparently it is thought that there are only 2000 in the world.

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  11. Oh, how lovely to see the little one, but then all little creatures are cute. I must say you were lucky to get to see it...

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    1. Winnie has become a very special attraction for people to see.

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  12. Thanks for another wonderful post Rosemary.

    Life is fraught with difficulty for animals trying to survive in the countries you mentioned; I once did a small amount of research on the Liberian mongoose and it faced the same perils. The closest the scientist doing the real research came to finding a specimen was a hide, remaining after the animal had been killed for food.

    Zoos may have their critics but they serve an increasingly important place in the preservation of animal species.

    Ms Soup

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    1. Thank you for your kind comment - yes, I think that in todays world the zoo keepers have a very important role travelling to these countries and introducing the local people to exactly what they have living amongst them. Teaching them what a precious resource they are both for themselves and the world generally. They kill them out of ignorance.

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  13. Hello Rosemary, It is nice to be reminded of the important conservation work that zoos now engage in. This baby pygmy hippo sure is adorable, although of course looks should not be a major criterion in deciding which animals (or plants) to save.
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - there was a sub-species of the Pygmy Hippo in Nigeria which is now thought to be extinct. There have been no confirmed reports of the isolated Nigerian population although unofficial reports from local people provide some hope that they may still exist. As I mentioned because they live in dense jungle and are so reclusive and nocturnal, it is possible that there may still be some of them In Nigeria.

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  14. Cuter than cute - I want one.

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  15. I was only vaguely aware of the existence of the Pygmy Hippo, but now am completely charmed by them, Rosemary. They look so gentle and sweet, not at all the ugly and not particularly attractive regular hippos I've seen in zoos. Yes, Winnie is a gorgeous little girl. Like you, I am not so keen on animals in captivity, but rejoice in the fact that modern zoos can help preserve these unique animals from extinction.

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    1. Dear Patricia - sweet and gently are the correct words for these little hippos. They are completely non aggressive - I could have picked Winnie up and carried her back home with me.

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  16. Dear Rosemary, How fortunate we are to have you share these precious photographs with us. I remember when Mark gifted you the little pygmy hippo. I always wondered what they looked like in real life and what kind of environment they preferred. Now I know. Great photographs. .

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    1. Dear Gina - delighted that you enjoyed seeing adorable little Winnie. Although related to the common Hippo their personalities and their lifestyles could not be more different.

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  17. That was an invitation that was definitely well worth taking up!! I agree with you about feeling odd about zoo's, but as you say nowadays they really do focus so much on conservation work and teaching us about what they do and the importance of it, that they really do have an important role to play in animal conservation and welfare. xx

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    1. The birth of little Winnie was a landmark occasion for the zoo - the keepers travels overseas are a very important part of their work in educating the locals to appreciate their wildlife and to acknowledge and accept that they have a responsibility for the animals that live amongst them.

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  18. Well, you couldn't pass on that offer! Such cuties. x

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    1. I have loved the Pygmy Hippos ever since I first saw them at Bristol Zoo several years ago.

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  19. That's a wonderful special offer and fantastic images to share with us. Sarah x

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    1. Winnie has endearing eyes to win over all hearts.

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  20. Facinating. I do hope the breeding programme continues to be successful, Rosemary.

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    1. Another little Winnie would be a joy.

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