A six-year-old a male sitatunga has been killed by a pygmy hippo at their new shared enclosure at the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Chopper the sitatunga – a swamp-dwelling antelope – was meant to be a part of the zoo’s new multi-species habitat that features pygmy hippos.
Zoo staffers say the two animals successfully completed visual introductions between Chopper and the pygmy hippo, named Jahari, last month.
But, when trained animal care staff attempted a controlled introduction on Tuesday, Jahari suddenly attacked Chopper. The animal’s sudden death comes just four days after Chopper was formally introduced to fans and animal lovers on the zoo’s Instagram page.
‘This sad incident reminds us that despite enormous cautionary measures taken by zoo staff over the last several weeks, the behavior of wild animals can be unpredictable,’ said the zoo’s CEO, Peter D’Arienzo.
Prior to the violent episode, Zoo curator Tim Sampson said the zoo staff were excited to introduce the two animals to each other in the same enclosure for the first time.
Staffers separated the two animals immediately and attempted to resuscitate Chopper, but were unsuccessful.
‘At John Ball Zoo, providing world-class care for our animals is our number one priority, and we are deeply saddened by the loss of Chopper, who was loved by all the staff that cared for him and who are today grieving this loss,’ continued the message from the CEO.
The zoo says it will complete a full review of the incident as part of its animal care protocols and procedures.
The sad development comes just weeks before ‘Hippopalooza,’ which is scheduled to run Friday, June 2 – Sunday, June 4.
The event is supposed to celebrate the opening of the zoo’s brand new, state-of-the-art pygmy hippo exhibit with live music and animal activities.
The mixed-animal habitat was supposed to house two pygmy hippos, two European white storks, and Chopper the sitatunga.
Jahari had recently come to the John Ball Zoo from the Pittsburgh zoo, while Chopper had arrived earlier this year from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The six-year-old sitatunga was born on June 25, 2016 at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.
Pygmy hippos – a dwarf species of regular hippos – are native to West Africa, and like their larger cousins, can be extremely confrontational, especially when they feel their space is being threatened.
This article by Sophie Mann was first published by The Daily Mail on 17 May 2023. Lead Image: Jahari, the newly arrived pygmy hippo, fatally attacked a sitatunga at the John Ball Zoo in Michigan on Tuesday.
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