Bubbles was born on Jan. 15, one month before World Hippo Day. (Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park/Submitted)

For the first time ever, one of the most endangered and beloved animals of Africa was born in the Arizona desert.

Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park recently announced the birth of a pygmy hippo named Bubbles.

This is a significant birth not only for Wildlife World but for animal enthusiasts and conservationists, because fewer than 3,000 pygmy hippos are left in the wild.

Bubbles was born Jan. 15 to his parents, Nessie and Tootsie, and is in excellent health. Bubbles is on exhibit now, and the timing of the pygmy hippo’s birth was perfect, as Feb. 15 was World Hippo Day.

Hippos are highly intelligent animals, and the team at Wildlife World was able to train complex medical behaviors allowing the mother Nessie to participate in procedures like ultrasounds, long before the calf was conceived. By Nessie participating in her own health care, the animal team, including two veterinarians, veterinary technicians and specialists, was able to better monitor her and Bubbles’ health through every step of pregnancy.

That ensured the birth of a healthy calf, and helped maintain the health, comfort and well-being of mom.

The pygmy hippopotamus is mainly found in West Africa and is a far more terrestrial species compared to common hippos. Both types of hippos are threatened by habitat loss due to logging and human settlement.

Although conservation initiatives are ongoing, without more information on the species’ status and a coordinated conservation strategy, the pygmy hippo may disappear from the wild.

Fortunately, Arizona’s climate is much like parts of West Africa and provides the young hippos with a perfect environment to flourish and thrive, all the while being an ambassador for their species and inspiring people to conserve and protect their wild counterparts.