Zoo Wants Rare Hippos to Make a Match

Hopefully some rare pygmy babies will be the result of the animal kingdom's love connection.

Photo via Franklin Park Zoo

Photo via Franklin Park Zoo

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but love is still blossoming at the Franklin Park Zoo. And workers there are hoping the romance will lead to a little one-on-one time between two rare pygmy hippos.

A baby hippopotamus could be in Boston’s future if breeders from the Dorchester-based zoo can get a new pygmy hippo named “Inocencio” to cuddle up next to the female counterpart, “Cleopatra.”

Inocencio came to Boston from Chile over the holiday season, but was publicly presented this week. He is now in his new home at the Tropical Forest at Franklin Park Zoo, where Cleopatra already resides.

According to zoo experts, the fate of the pygmy hippo population weighs heavily on the slippery shoulders of their newest addition. “The North American captive pygmy hippo population is small—with only about 61 individuals—and highly skewed toward females, so Inocencio is crucial to the effort to create a self-sustaining population,” zoo representatives said in a statement. “In the interest of conserving this endangered species, the hope is that he’ll breed with a female pygmy hippo.”

The pair hasn’t met yet, but when they do, the zoo hopes it will be a match made in weird-looking hippo heaven. “It will be awhile before Inocencio and Cleopatra are introduced. Inocencio just turned two at the end of December. These animals are sexually mature at three-years-old. He is also not full-grown yet and we want to wait until he is bigger before introducing the two. There is no official ‘mating season’ for these animals,” according to Brooke Wardrop, director of marketing and communications for Zoo New England.

Right now, Inocencio is relatively small because he’s young, weighing in at about 290 pounds. But the zoo expects he will double in size, and eventually weigh around 600 pounds as he snacks on lettuce (that’s seems like a lot of lettuce, to be honest). But he will need all the energy he can get from his vegetable diet if he wants to do his part in reviving the endangered breed.