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This zoo didn't just get a hippopotamus for Christmas — it got a baby pygmy one

Christmas came early to the Metro Richmond Zoo with the gift of a pygmy hippo calf.
Metro Richmond Zoo
Christmas came early to the Metro Richmond Zoo with the gift of a pygmy hippo calf.

In 1953, a 10-year-old star named Gayla Peevey gave the world something to yearn for when she recorded the classic song, "I want a Hippopotamus for Christmas."

Nearly 70 years later, a zoo in Virginia delivered a version of Peevey's wish — and not just with any ol' hippopotamus, but with a wide-eyed, shoebox-size, baby pygmy hippopotamus.

The Metro Richmond Zoo announced last week that parents Iris and Corwin welcomed the baby girl earlier this month.

The yet-to-be-named calf weighed in at a healthy 16 pounds during her first neonatal exam — just a sliver of the 600 pounds she could weigh when fully grown.

"Iris is an experienced mother and very caring of her baby. The calf has been nursing and is growing quickly," the zoo wrote in a birth announcement. Both daughter and mother will be kept off-exhibit while they bond.

The new arrival is the second pygmy hippo born at the zoo, the only place in Virginia that's home to the wiggly eared, semiaquatic mammals.

Hippos have seen a recent boost in popularity in part thanks to the survival story of Fiona, a Cincinnati Zoo celebrity who was born six weeks premature.

At age 5, Fiona is strong, healthy and still petite. But at about 1,300 pounds, she's no pygmy.

The pygmy hippo species is native to the forests of West Africa. With fewer than 2,500 of the reclusive animals left in the wild, it's also listed as endangered.

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Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.