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Conserving the Pygmy Hippo in Sierra Leone


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

Image | Pygmy hippo | © ZSL
Loma Mountain, Sierra Leone
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
  • Conduct surveys to establish distribution, population size and threats around Loma Mountain
  • Work with local communities around Loma Mountain to establish community based conservation initiative benefiting both local people and pygmy hippos
  • Carry out a national assessment to determine distribution, population size and priority sites for conservation work
  • Develop national action plans for pygmy hippo conservation in each of the range states
  •  Integrate additional data from other current projects by creating a new pygmy hippo website and database for sharing knowledge
  • Continue to build capacity and co-ordinate conservation work with collaborators
  • Completed preliminary surveys of the waterways around Loma Mountain in December 2010, confirming the presence of pygmy hippos. A community conservation project is now being developed
  • Village surveys and talks resulted in one village declaring ‘no hunting’ of pygmy hippo by any villager
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)      Continue distribution surveys in Sierra Leone and expand to Liberia and Guinea.

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

Project Leader
Project Collaborators
Related Media
The pygmy hippo is a priority EDGE mammal endemic to the threatened Upper Guinea Forests biodiversity hotspot with fewer than 3,000 believed to remain in the wild. Yet little is known abo...

Pygmy hippo footprints in the mud

Pygmy hippo trail leading into the water

Searching the pools for signs of pygmy hippo

Project Funding Bodies