Facts
  • Occurs in West Africa (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast).
  • The name hippopotamus derives from the Greek for 'river horse', and is a particularly apt description for the pygmy hippo, which spends much of its time resting in rivers or swamps.
  • The common hippo, and it’s less well-known relative, the pygmy hippo were formerly believed to be most closely related to pigs or peccaries. However, recent genetic studies have revealed that their closest living relatives are in fact whales. The two groups diverged during the Eocene (around 54 million years ago).
  • The skin of the pygmy hippo contains special pores that secrete a white or pinkish substance known as “blood-sweat”. This material is thick, oily and protective in nature, allowing the animals to remain in water or in a dry atmosphere on land for extended periods.
  • Pygmy hippos feature in many folktales. One suggests that the pygmy hippo finds its way through the forest at night by carrying a diamond in its mouth, which lights its path. The hippo is said to hide the diamond by day where it cannot be found. According to folklore, if a hunter is lucky enough to catch one at night, the diamond can be taken.
Threats
  • The range of the pygmy hippopotamus is severely fragmented, and is continuing to decline in area, extent and quality as a result of logging, farming and human settlement.
  • The species is under increasing pressure from bushmeat hunters as the forests become smaller and more accessible. Although pygmy hippos are unlikely to be the main target of subsistence hunting, they are taken opportunistically by the hunters, and this is likely to be impacting upon the remaining small, isolated populations.
  • National and international conflicts in eastern Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are also likely to be having a negative effect on the species.
Conservation Required
  • Assess the distribution and numbers of pygmy hippo within and around Sapo National Park, Liberia by camera trapping, counts of dunging areas, trails or nest sites.
  • Community surveys to determine different threat processes impacting pygmy hippo populations within and around the national park.
  • Development of a comprehensive Conservation Action Plan for the Sapo National Park pygmy hippo population.


Proposed Actions

EDGE aims to determine the population size and distribution of the pygmy hippopotamus in Sapo National Park in Liberia.

The pygmy hippopotamus has a severely fragmented distribution and is under increasing pressure from logging, farming and human settlement. The latest data suggest that only 2,000-3,000 individuals remain in the wild, mostly concentrated in Liberia and Sierra Leone. There has been little action to protect pygmy hippo habitat or populations. According to the IUCN/SSC Hippo Specialist Subgroup, unless effective protection or conservation actions are taken, the viability of this species should be considered extremely poor. Focused conservation attention on via populations in secure regions is strongly recommended. One of the most important surviving populations of pygmy hippos is thought to survive in Sapo National Park, Liberia.

EDGE researchers in collaboration with Flora and Fauna International (FFI) and a Liberian EDGE Fellow will gather extensive data on the population and distribution of pygmy hippos and other threatened species in Sapo National Park. The main threats facing pygmy hippos in and around the park will be assessed, and the information used to develop a comprehensive Conservation Action Plan for the Sapo population. Education and awareness activities will be arranged for local communities, informing people of the pygmy hippo and its conservation importance.

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Associated Blog Posts
19th Dec 11
Camera traps are revolutionising our ability to track the changing fate of wildlife. Often used in remote locations looking for elusive species, thi...  Read

15th Oct 11
Trying to get cameras in the wild to capture images of the elusive pygmy hippo (Choeropsis liberiensis) is no easy task, but the project in Sapo National Par...  Read

28th Sep 11
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...  Read

7th Jun 11
Today Sapo, the cute pygmy hippo calf at Whipsnade Zoo, took his first dip in the outdoor pool! The calf has been named after the national park in Liberi...  Read

8th Feb 11
In November 2010 a workshop was held in Liberia, West Africa to develop a conservation strategy for the pygmy hippo, EDGE mammal number 29. The pygmy hippo i...  Read

25th Feb 10
The pygmy hippopotamus is today featured as the IUCN Red List ‘Species of the Day’, which is running throughout 2010 to mark the International Year of Bi...  Read

29th Jun 09
EDGE Fellow John Konie recently wrote to give us the news that the President of Liberia had made a visit to Sapo National Park, where Konie is using camera t...  Read

11th Dec 08
Marwell Zoological Park is celebrating the birth of a pygmy hippopotamus, EDGE Mammal species number 21. Born three weeks ago, the hippo is part of a cons...  Read

3rd Jul 08
Our EDGE Fellow John Konie monitors the pygmy hippopotamus and other threatened mammal species in Liberia. He has sent us the following information about Sap...  Read

11th Apr 08
Sapo National park comprises 1800 km2 of moist tropical lowland rainforest, with a varied mosaic of riparian, seasonally inundated, and dryland forest. Ther...  Read

10th Mar 08
Team 1 - forest team While the cameras must stay in the field for 35 days to allow sufficient time for images to be captured, in order to complete the train...  Read

4th Mar 08
On the 20th January, Ben Collen, Janna Rist and Olivia Daniel set off to Liberia to set up a monitoring programme in Sapo National Park, and to try and captu...  Read

20th Jan 08
Today we travel out to Sapo National Park to begin our pygmy hippo monitoring programme.  All the camera traps arrived last week thanks to Rich (at www.trai...  Read

12th Oct 07
Robert Howard, part of the Fauna and Flora International (FFI) team carrying out the biomonitoring programme in Sapo National Park sent us this blog:  ...  Read

23rd Aug 07
Hi I’m John Konie, I currently work as a Biologist for the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), in Liberia. Recently I have been given a great opportunity...  Read