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 is a highly endangered mammal endemic to the Upper Guinea Forest of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire and is so secretive that its existence was regarded as myth by western zoologists until the mid 1800’s! However, its existence was not a myth and it is now threatened by habitat loss due to logging, mining and agriculture.
The workshop which took place at the Krystal Oceanview Hotel in Monrovia, Liberia, between the 24th and 26th November was hosted by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Pygmy Hippo sub-group of the IUCN SSC Hippo Specialist Group. It was attended by 33 participants, including representatives from all range states, government agencies, and local and international NGOs working on pygmy hippo conservation. Support for the workshop was provided by Attica Zoo in Greece, the Ecosystem Grants Programme of the IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands, the IUCN Save our Species (SOS) Programme, the Mohammed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the Zoological Society of London.
In preparation for the workshop a detailed status review, including digitised distribution maps, was compiled by ZSL. This represents the most detailed and up-to date account of the status and biology of the pygmy hippo produced to date and includes a full bibliography.
The three day workshop itself followed the process developed by IUCN to produce a long-term, range-wide framework for prioritised conservation action. The workshop was opened by Hon Worgbeh, the Managing Director of Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority. He was followed by a series of presentations from organisations currently involved in pygmy hippo conservation initiatives in the region to set the scene.
The first job for the workshop participants was to review the information in the status review, including updating both the current and historical distribution maps. This was followed by a full threat assessment to evaluate the major threats to pygmy hippos and their habitat and help identify measures needed to mitigate threats and improve the conservation status.
The final two days of the workshop were then spent developing the conservation strategy itself. This is designed to provide a long-term framework for action beginning with a long-term, idealized vision, followed by a more concrete goal, through a logical, hierarchical structure down to individual actions. This was developed in a participatory way during the workshop through a series of plenary sessions and working group discussions.
To complement the development of a conservation strategy a resolution was written to appeal to the Heads of States in each country to embrace the pygmy hippo as a flagship species for conservation of biodiversity in the region and to do more to enforce national laws on the poaching of endangered species.
Following the successful drafting of the pygmy hippo conservation strategy the workshop was declared a success and all participants were keen to stay in contact so information, methodologies and educational material could continue to be shared. The workshop also attracted some media attention and is hoped articles published in the local press in West Africa will inspire national pride in this evolutionarily distinct, globally endangered species.
It is hoped that the strategy will be completed and available to the public by the end of February. For more information please contact the EDGE team or leave a comment below.
If you would like to support the conservation of EDGE mammals like the pygmy hippo you can donate here.