A favourite with Moscow Zoo visitors, pygmy hippopotamus Ksyusha has ventured outside for the first time in a long while. From early autumn, the hippo stayed indoors beyond public view, reluctant to go out.
The motherland of pygmy hippopotamuses is hot Africa. The animals are heat-loving and can’t withstand draught or abrupt temperature fluctuation. That’s why Ksyusha has been unwilling to go outside until now with the warmer weather.
The three-year-old female pygmy hippo arrived at the Moscow Zoo from Sweden a year ago as part of the European programme to preserve the species in captivity.
Having become noticeably bigger over the winter, the female hippo has remained as energetic and playful as before. Ksyusha constantly finds some fun including playing with a wooden water raft that the zoo staff made for her.
Ksyusha dives under it and then suddenly emerges from the water overturning the raft. Every now and then zoo workers lay different treats on the raft for her to encourage her to find them during the game. This creates behavioural diversity – an essential factor of keeping an animal in captivity.
The zoo staff conducts special training with the hippo. So far she can fulfill the following requests – go from one enclosure to another and leave the pool. Ksyusha can be seen in the zoo’s new section in the Animals of Africa pavilion. She is the most active in the morning at about 8.30 am during the first feeding, after which the hippo needs a rest after the long water exercises. The other active period is in the evening. In the wild, pygmy hippopotamuses are crepuscular creatures preferring to stay in coastal grass in the daytime.