Love is in the air for pygmy hippos Fergus and Kambiri!
Love is in the air for pygmy hippos Fergus and Kambiri! (Photo: Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo)

It may not technically be spring in Australia right now, but that's not stopping the animals at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney from celebrating the season of love.

One amorous couple that is giving hope to animal conservationists is a pair of endangered pygmy hippos named Fergus and Kambiri. Not long after being introduced to each other for the first time, they quickly began showering each other with oodles of sloppy kisses.

Of course, as fun as it is to assign anthropomorphized traits to non-human animals, it's important to note that these hippo kisses are different from the romantically-charged smooches shared by humans.

"It may look a bit like hippo kisses, but that’s how pygmy hippos interact and get to know one another," Taronga keeper Johny Wade explains. "They interact with their noses and also show their strength and dominance with open mouth gesturing."

There are currently around 3,000 of these adorable animals roaming wild in the forests and swamps of West Africa, which is why the Taronga Zoo is so hopeful that the pair will mate and add to the species' growing "insurance population."

Those are some mighty fangs, but don't worry — they're jaws of love!
Those are some mighty fangs, but don't worry — they're jaws of love! (Photo: Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo)

Pygmy hippos are solitary creatures that only really socialize for breeding purposes, which is why Fergus and Kambiri are normally kept in separate habitats. However, with Kambiri recently showing signs of entering estrus — a recurring hormonal period marked by sexual receptivity in females, also known as "going into heat" — keepers at Taronga decided it was finally time to make introductions between the two.

Although no mating occurred, the keepers believe the pair's "first date" went swimmingly. Quite literally, in fact — they spent a great deal of time getting to know one another in the water.

"We didn’t see any aggressive behavior," Wade says. "They were playful and excited by the interactions, playing in the water together and having a little chase around on land."

The zoo plans to continue with these daily visits for the next few weeks, in hopes that one of the "dates" will lead to successful mating. Only time will tell, but it sure looks like these love birds (love hippos?) are off to a promising start.

Fergus and Kambiri share a smooch.
Fergus and Kambiri share a smooch. (Photo: Paul Fahy/Taronga Zoo)

Catie Leary ( @catieleary ) writes about science, travel, animals and the arts.