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Hip, hippo, hooray! Franklin Park Zoo invites the public to help name pygmy hippo calf


Our pygmy hippo calf has been named Ptolemy, after the youngest son of Cleopatra. The little one’s name was selected by a generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous. The donor was the winner of a 10-day online auction with a winning bid of $40,600. The auction also raised an additional $2,500 in donations in honor of the hippo calf. All proceeds will benefit Zoo New England’s All for Our Animals Fund, supporting the critical animal care at Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo, including healthy diets and high-quality veterinary care.

On October 5, a new and adorable 13-pound face arrived at the Zoo when Cleopatra, a pygmy hippopotamus, gave birth to a male calf. And now Franklin Park Zoo is looking for your help to name him, through an online silent auction taking place from November 19-29.

Since his arrival, the little hippo calf has been stealing hearts and making waves – quite literally, as being in the water is one of his favorite things. This growing boy now weighs in at over 30 pounds, and recently made his exhibit debut in the Zoo’s Tropical Forest under the watchful eye of his mom – and to the delight of Zoo guests.

The birth was a joyous moment marking the culmination of years of work, careful planning and dedication by the animal care and veterinary teams. The tiny male calf is the first pygmy hippo born at Zoo New England.

The auction opens November 19, and is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the birth by bidding for a chance to name him or by making a donation in his honor. All auction proceeds will go to the All for Our Animals Fund to support critical animal care at Franklin Park Zoo and Stone Zoo, including healthy diets and high quality veterinary care. Full details can be found at

Cleopatra’s pregnancy was detected via ultrasound on March 2, 2020, and ultrasounds were conducted continually throughout her pregnancy to monitor the baby’s development. The gestation for pygmy hippos is six to seven months. Due to the wonderful training program between Cleopatra and her care team, the staff at Zoo New England were the first to be able to monitor a pygmy hippo pregnancy via ultrasound from early gestation, at only four weeks.

Zoo New England participates in the Pygmy Hippo Species Survival Plan (SSP), which is a cooperative, inter-zoo program coordinated nationally through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). SSPs help to ensure the survival of selected species in zoos and aquariums, most of which are threatened or endangered, and enhance conservation of these species in the wild. Cleo’s pregnancy is a result of an SSP breeding recommendation with her mate Inocencio. The population managed by the Pygmy Hippo SSP is small and skewed toward females, which makes this birth even more significant.

Pygmy hippos are native to West African rainforests in the countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Ivory Coast and Liberia. This endangered species faces increasing threats including shrinking natural habitat as the result of logging, farming, mining and human settlement.

Because of their reclusive nature, they are difficult to count in the wild. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), it is estimated that there are less than 2,500 individuals left in their native habitat in West Africa.