A Pygmy Message From Our VP Of Conservation, Lee Ann Rottman

Written by Lee Ann Rottman, Vice President of Conservation

Hi Zoo Friends,

On Dec 1st, we were blessed with an adorable baby pygmy hippo and later we revealed that this little miracle is a baby girl.  Mom Zsa Zsa and calf are doing great – the baby girl has grown from the size of a loaf of bread to the size of a plump little watermelon.  She also has gained confidence and will now run into the pool by herself.  She is keeping her mom busy with her rambunctious ways but Zsa Zsa is an experienced mom and seems to take it all in stride.

A Pygmy Message From Our VP Of Conservation, Lee Ann Rottman - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

As the VP of Conservation, I have been asked a lot lately why is this birth significant.  When there is an adorable baby in front of you, it is often hard to think about her wild ancestors and what her birth means on a bigger scale for both the Zoo and her species.

Let me start by saying, Pygmy hippos are both rare and unique.  Pygmy hippos are found in interior forests of West Africa including the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and the Ivory Coast.  As a shy reclusive species little is known about their habits in the wild.  It is estimated that only around 3,000 are left in the wild and due to rapid habitat loss this species is now considered endangered.

A Pygmy Message From Our VP Of Conservation, Lee Ann Rottman - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

So what does this mean? With such a small surviving population, steps are needed to help protect this species from vanishing.   Researchers in Africa are working hard to learn more about pygmy hippo behavior while also working with the local communities within and around its range to help protect this valuable species and habitat.  At the Zoo, our pygmy hippos are part of a Species Survival Plan that works to preserve this species in zoos and aquariums while also bringing awareness to the conservation needs of this species in the wild.

You are part of our zoo family, we want you to “ooh and awe” over our new baby girl because we are also excited and amazed by her.  However, we also want to connect you in a greater way.   Next week, our baby girl will finally get a name!

A Pygmy Message From Our VP Of Conservation, Lee Ann Rottman - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

While social media submissions have closed, there’s still time to help name the baby in the following ways:

  1. Adopt a hippo!  Every adoption package helps provide excellent care to our hippo family and helps the Zoo’s Conservation Fund support efforts to protect pygmy hippo in Africa. In addition, you can submit a name with every adoption package you purchase.
  2. Tampa Zoo friends, you can also submit a name at the Hyde Park Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops store located at 702 S Village Cir, Tampa, FL 33606. Voting at the store ends at 12:00 pm on January 7th.

A name will be randomly selected. We encourage you to keep it “G” and family friendly, bonus points for holiday-themed names! The name will be revealed at the Zoo on Monday, January 8 at 11:00 a.m. Our friends at Hyppo Gourmet Ice Pops will be celebrating with a variety of delicious melon-flavored popsicles. While the baby is strictly nursing, Zsa Zsa, loves melons!

A Special Halloween Message From Our VP of Conservation Lee Ann Rottman

Happy Halloween boos and ghouls! As we prepare for trick or treating, it is important to not only wear our Halloween hats but also our conservation hat.  What you might not know is that Orangutans in the wild are losing their rainforest homes due to clearcutting to plant palm oil plantations. Clearing rainforests to grow palm oil trees destroys critical habitat and has pushed some animals to the brink of extinction.

What is Palm oil? It is an edible oil that is found in many of the foods we eat, including some Halloween candy.  Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of the African oil palm tree. It easily blends with other ingredients, acts as a preservative, and is tasteless. Palm oil is used for cooking, and is added to many products like soaps, cosmetics, ice cream, cookies, chocolate, and frozen meals. About half of all packaged goods sold in US or European grocery stores contain palm oil.

Some companies are using sustainable palm oil and some are not.  Not only do many everyday products contain palm oil, sometimes it is listed under a completely different name on the ingredients label. As consumers, we can use our buying power to encourage companies to use only sustainable palm oil. To help us buy wisely, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has made a great app that helps consumers make smart choice at the grocery store to help save orangutans and many of the other animals that share their home.  So please down load the app so that you can enjoy Halloween and help save orangutans at the same time.

A Special Halloween Message From Our VP of Conservation Lee Ann Rottman - ZooTampa at Lowry Park

Also, as you trick or treat around your neighborhood please remember to pick up your candy wrappers.  The wrappers are dangerous to native wildlife. So be mindful, be safe and look out for ghosts!