This week’s endangered species is the pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis), which is listed as endangered on the IUCN red list. Only a hippo could be considered the “pygmy” of its species at 350-600 lbs! This shy, solitary, nocturnal animal is found in western Africa, where it lives in forests near streams. Similar to the larger hippo, pygmy hippos can shut their eyes and ears underwater, but their feet are not as webbed as their larger cousins. The pygmy hippo is a vegetarian that has a stomach with four chambers to help break down cellulose found in the plants it eats. Here’s an interesting factoid: The pygmy hippo wanders through its range, following well-defined trails, spreading its feces by spinning its tail while defecating. Hippos even have hairs with split ends on their tails to assure maximum “fling” of its feces! Pygmy hippos reach sexual maturity at around 4 to 5 years of age, and gestation lasts about 6 months. The young cannot walk at first, so the mother hides the young in streamside vegetation while she feeds.
The major threat to pygmy hippos is habitat loss due to logging, farming, and other human development, as well as political instability in the region. This fact answers the question, “Why should we care if pygmy hippos are endangered?” Because if they’re declining because of loss of forests and streams, that means every animal, including humans, that depends on forests and streams is also impacted. Forest habitats help to store and clean water, as well as provide homes for many species in the local food chain.
See a baby pygmy hippo take her first swim!
Longing for a little more hippo entertainment? Enjoy!
Lewison, R. & Oliver, W. (IUCN SSC Hippo Specialist Subgroup) 2008. Choeropsis liberiensis. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 10 November 2012.
San Diego Zoo. 2012. Mammals: Pygmy Hippopotomus. http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-pygmy_hippo.html. Accessed 11/10/2012.
YouTube.com. 2006. Hippo Singing the Lion Sleeps Tonight. www.youtube.com/watch?v=AY2HPvoqSTE. Accessed 11/10/2012.