March 9, 2023


Pygmy Hippo leaves Pittsburgh for John Ball Zoo


The Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium’s beloved resident pygmy hippopotamus, Jahari, is a surprise choice for a romantic lead, but is about to break hearts in Pittsburgh as he leaves the city to look for love. As part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan, Jahari relocated to the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Thursday, March 9, 2023 to prepare for future breeding opportunities.

Jahari himself was born as part of the AZA Species Survival Plan in August 2014 at the Louisville Zoological Garden. He has been a star Pittsburgh resident in the Jungle Odyssey section of the Zoo since June 2016, delighting guests with his graceful aquatic antics and his big smile.

Pygmy hippos are found in West Africa and are endangered at a somewhat higher threat level than that of their larger common hippo relatives. They typically live 30-50 years, and less than 3,000 are estimated to be left in the wild. Pygmy hippos are primarily at risk due to forest and swamp habitat loss. Through Species Survival Plans, multiple zoos, certified facilities, and wildlife organizations around the world work together to ensure the genetic diversity and safety of threatened animals like pygmy hippos.

“Everyone in Pittsburgh is sad to see Jahari go, but species conservation is our mission,” said Karen Vacco, Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium Assistant Curator of Mammals. “He’s going to a good home in Michigan and we look forward to following his journey to becoming a dad.”

While Jahari is on the move, animal lovers should take heart; exciting new additions are coming to the Pittsburgh Zoo very soon. Pittsburghers can keep an eye on Zoo social media pages @pghzoo for upcoming announcements within the week.