The pygmy hippopotamus: a miniature marvel in need of our attention

Do you know the pygmy hippopotamus? April 8th is the day dedicated to this small but endangered animal. Let's find out more about the species. Here are 5 curiosities about the pygmy hippopotamus, the herbivorous mammal of the day

Despite its toy-like appearance among its family, notably smaller in size compared to its cousin, the common hippopotamus, the pygmy hippopotamus is a unique creature not to be underestimated.

We’re delving into the world of the pygmy hippopotamus, scientifically known as Hexaprotodon liberiensis. Less known than its relative, the Hippopotamus amphibius, the pygmy hippo requires, if not more, equal attention for its survival is at risk.

In an effort to increase awareness of the threats faced by pygmy hippos and to bolster conservation initiatives, a day has been dedicated annually to this cause.

Celebrating the pygmy hippo

April 8 marks the International Day of the Pygmy Hippopotamus, an opportunity to deepen our understanding of this endangered mammal. Here are five interesting facts about the pygmy hippo you might not know:

A hippo in miniature

The pygmy hippopotamus is significantly smaller than its common counterpart, measuring between 140 and 180 cm in length. For perspective, the common hippo can reach up to 5 meters in length as an adult.

Standing at about 80 cm tall, compared to the 140-150 cm of its cousin, the pygmy hippo, weighing around 200 kg, is considerably lighter than the nearly 1,500 kg common hippo.

Home is West Africa

Originating from West Africa, the pygmy hippo can be found in the forests of Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Over the ages, it has adapted to a terrestrial life.

This adaptation is evident in their feet, with wider toes that allow them to move more easily through the forests and marshes of Africa in search of plants and fruits offered by nature. Water still plays a crucial role for this species.

Diving, but only moderately

Despite its thick, yet delicate skin, which can easily dry out and crack, the pygmy hippo must spend time in water to rehydrate.

Unlike its common cousin, it swims and dives in shallower waters. Its nostrils and orbits are smaller and less pronounced, suitable for more gentle aquatic activities.

Preferring solitude

Unlike the common hippo, which lives in various sized groups, the pygmy hippo is not a social animal. It tends to avoid others of its kind, preferring a solitary and nocturnal lifestyle, marking its territory to prevent unwanted encounters.

On the brink of extinction

The pygmy hippopotamus is facing extinction, classified as at risk by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Habitat loss due to deforestation, agriculture, infrastructure, and poaching are major threats. Pygmy hippos are often hunted for their meat and teeth.

Currently, about 350 pygmy hippos live in captivity worldwide. The birth of a pygmy hippo is celebrated as a beacon of hope for the species, in addition to being seen as “incredibly tender.”

However, captivity is not where the pygmy hippo should be safeguarded. It remains endangered and in need of our protection.

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