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Pygmy hippo suddenly attacks, kills new animal at Michigan Zoo

The sitatunga who was killed, named Chopper, was introduced to West Michigan on the Zoo's Facebook page just three days prior.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A male sitatunga was killed Tuesday after he was attacked by a pygmy hippo in a new John Ball Zoo exhibit, officials announced

The sitatunga, named Chopper, was introduced to West Michigan on the Zoo's Facebook page just three days prior.

The exhibit, including both Chopper and the pygmy hippo, was meant to be a new multi-species habitat. 

Zookeepers successfully introduced Chopper and the pygmy hippo visually throughout the last month, the Zoo said. 

Animal care staff were attempting a controlled introduction of the pygmy hippo and Chopper inside the habitat when the hippo suddenly attacked Chopper. 

Zoo staff were able to separate the animals immediately, but lifesaving measures were unsuccessful and Chopper ultimately passed away. A full review of the incident is underway by zoo officials. 

Credit: John Ball Zoo
Chopper, a sitatunga, was killed by a pygmy hippo at John Ball Zoo.

"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," wrote John Ball Zoo staff on Facebook.

"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," they said.

Chopper was born at Maryland Zoo in Baltimore and spent time at San Diego Zoo Safari Park before coming to West Michigan. He was one month away from turning seven years old. 

Pygmy hippos can weigh between 350 to 600 pounds, and measure 4.9 to 5.7 feet long.


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