Dr. Gradil Provides Expert Assistance with Pygmy Hippo Pregnancy and Delivery at Franklin Park Zoo

“The calf was immediately so bright, strong and aware, and was holding his head up right away. The calf was introduced to Cleo soon after birth and was nursing within a few hours,” said Dr. Eric Baitchman, Zoo New England Vice President of Animal Health and Conservation. “Each new birth contributes to the continued survival of this endangered species, and we are thrilled by this success. This is the result of years of teamwork and commitment, and I am incredibly proud of the Zoo team. We are also grateful to Dr. Carlos Gradil, a veterinary reproductive specialist in the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who also holds an adjunct appointment at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, for his expert guidance and assistance throughout Cleo’s pregnancy and delivery.”

Late in the afternoon on Monday, October 5, Cleopatra, a pygmy hippopotamus, gave birth to a 13-pound male calf at Franklin Park Zoo.

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.

Because Cleopatra, affectionately known as Cleo, gave birth to stillborn calves in 2018 and 2019 due to prolonged labor, the decision was made early on in this pregnancy to induce her so that the veterinary team could assist if needed. On Saturday, October 3, Cleo received her first hormone injection to prepare her for labor, a second injection 24 hours later, and her care team monitored her and the baby around the clock through the weekend with ultrasounds every few hours. By late afternoon on Monday, October 5, she began showing signs of labor but no contractions. After oxytocin injections were not effective to induce contractions, the veterinary team manually delivered the calf.

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