Pygmy Hippos

A pygmy hippo at ZSL London Zoo

There’s nothing pygmy hippos love more than having plenty of sleep and long soaks in warm water.

Nicky the Pygmy Hippo at ZSL London Zoo

The pygmy hippo enclosure has been equipped with solar panels to make sure their hippo pond is always a nice temperature, ensuring these lovely hippos stay nice and warm all year long.

Just like the giraffes, okapi, and warthogs, pygmy hippos hail from Africa. In fact, pygmy hippos are very rare animals and can only be found in West Africa.

A map of where pygmy hippos live in the world. 

A pygmy hippo at ZSL London Zoo

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Want to know the key differences between Pygmy hippos and their large cousins? Here are some ways to sort between your common hippos and pygmys.


A pygmy hippo at ZSL London Zoo

Pygmy Hippo

Population: Only around 3000 in a few countries in West Africa

Weight: up to 300 kg

Lifestyle: Lives alone in swamps, streams and dense forest

Feet: Well-separated toes for trudging through mud

Nose: Less prominent nostrils as spends more time on land


Common Hippopotamus at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Common Hippo

Population: Around 130,000 across Africa

Weight: Up to 3000 kg

Lifestyle: Lives in groups of 10-30 in rivers and lakes

Feet: Webbed toes for wallowing in water

Nose: Nostrils on top to stick out of river for easy breathing

A pygmy hippo at ZSL London Zoo

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It is estimated that there could be less that 2000 pygmy hippos left in the wild, with a Nigerian subspecies already believed to be extinct. In the wild, pygmy hippos come under threat from hunting and habitat loss. Many populations of hippos have become fragmented due to logging, mining, farming and other human activity. As pygmy hippos are forced to engage with local communities, they come under more and more danger from extinction.

Pygmy Hippo caught in camera trap

In 2007 ZSL’s EDGE of Existence Programme recognised pygmy hippos as a priority for conservation. Since then, ZSL has been working in Liberia and Sierra Leone, trying to work towards protecting what remains of the wild pygmy hippo population.

In the field, ZSL carries out vital research into pygmy hippo ecology, distribution and behaviour. We also work with local communities and government wildlife authorities to protect them. Alongside this, ZSL London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo are part of a captive breeding program and in 2010 produced the IUCN SSC Regional Pygmy Hippo Conservation Strategy.

To learn more about ZSL’s conservation work, you can visit our project page. You can also visit the EDGE website and learn just what makes the pygmy hippo such an important animal to preserve. If you feel inspired by the work that you see, don’t forget that you can donate to ZSL and raise funds for future and current conservation projects.

A pygmy hippo at ZSL London Zoo

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