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Pygmy Hippo Monitoring in Sapo National Park


To ensure the survival of the pygmy hippopotamus throughout its range.

Image | Pygmy hippo | © ZSL
Sapo National Park, Liberia
Species Background

Occurs in West Africa (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast and possibly Nigeria). The species is less social than the common hippopotamus and is primarily nocturnal, and the pygmy hippo’s range does not overlap with its common cousin. Hippo skin contains pores that secrete pink “blood-sweat”, a thick substance allowing them to remain in water or dry atmospheres for long periods. Pygmy hippos feature in folktales: one says that at night they carry diamonds in their mouths, and if a hunter catches one he gets the jewel. It is estimated that around 2,000-3,000 pygmy hippos survive, and the Nigerian subspecies may already be extinct.

Map & Range
Species Threats

The Upper Guinea Forests that are home to the  pygmy hippo is severely fragmented, and is continuing to decline in area, extent and quality as a result of logging, farming and human activity, especially in Liberia, where the largest populations of pygmy hippo are believed to occur. The species is under increasing pressure from bushmeat hunters as the forests become more accessible.

Project actions
  • Establish a camera trapping monitoring programme in the park
  • Train park staff to carry out monitoring activities
  • Conduct more in-depth surveys to determine pygmy hippo population and distribution in the park and provide data to inform management
  • Develop and implement a practical training course for students
  • Develop a Centre of Excellence for Ecological Research and Conservation Learning (CEERCL) to provide training for Liberian students and natural resource management professionals in field research methods and conservation issues
  • March 2008 - First confirmed camera trap photos (LINK) of pygmy hippo in Sapo National Park, confirming its continued presence in Liberia. .
  • In November 2010, ZSL hosted the first ‘International Pygmy Hippo Conservation Strategy Planning Workshop’. Held in Liberia, .attendees included government staff (from Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone), conservation NGO staff, species conservation specialists, representatives from academic institutions and other key stakeholders
  • An IUCN Species Conservation Strategy (SCS) and an updated distribution map for the pygmy hippo were produced
  • First video footage of the pygmy hippo in November 2011, Liberia
Future Actions

1) Continue to implement actions from Pygmy Hippo Conservation Strategy: additional research to guide management decisions, maintain conservation activities in priority sites and raise awareness of the pygmy hippo nationally and internationally

2) Appoint a ‘Pygmy Hippo Co-ordinator’ to ensure the implementation of strategic action plans to raise funds

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