Threatened Pygmy Hippos
The pygmy hippo is an evolutionarily distinct species endemic to the moist forests of the Upper Guinea Forest ecosystem. Fewer than 3000 individuals remain, and these animals are under threat from hunting and habitat destruction.
Pygmy Hippo's are found in the West African Upper Guinea Forest ecosystem of Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, with the largest population thought to inhabit the forests of Liberia. This is a heavily threatened area of fantastically high biodiversity and endemicity.
These animals are an evolutionarily distinct species, and a focus of ZSL's EDGE of Existence programme . They are generally solitary, spending daylight hours in or around water bodies in the forest to keep cool. They emerge to feed in the forest at night. Amazingly, their hairless skin secretes a substance which may act as sunscreen against the harsh African sun or even as an antibacterial agent.
Threats and dwindling numbers
A population estimate in 1993 suggested that only 2000-3000 pygmy hippo individuals remained in total. since then, their numbers are likely to have declined. They are are classified as Endangered on the 2010 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. There used to be a distinct pygmy hippo subspecies (C. liberiensis heslopi) that existed in Nigeria, but this has most probably gone extinct.
These declines are due to the fact that the pygmy hippo's forest habitat has become extremely fragmented as a result of logging, mining and farming activities. Pygmy hippos have been brought into closer contact with humans and are at much greater risk of being hunted and disturbed by human activities.
See a pygmy hippo caught on the move by one of our camera traps in the forests of Liberia: