If you loved the game Hungry Hungry Hippos as a child, then youll love our feature animal for this Wildlife Wednesday. Take a few minutes to learn about the pygmy hippopotamus.
Pygmy hippopotamuses, with their tiny ears, round noses, and round bodies, are no exception to the “smaller is (almost) always cuter” rule—so let’s take a moment to learn about them on this Wildlife Wednesday.
Pygmy hippos most often make their homes in the West African country of Liberia, but can also be found along streams and other waterways in neighbouring countries Guinea, the Ivory Coast, and Sierra Leone.
- These undersized ungulates most often munch on terrestrial plants—including fruit, roots, grasses, plant stems, and leaves—when they get the rumbly in their tumbly.
- “Noisy, noisy hippo” may be a more apt term for the well-known children’s game—pygmy hippos can be heard chomping from up to 150 ft (45 m) away!
- The use of the term “pygmy” is most certainly well deserved, since these little hippos only stand 3 ft (1 m) tall and come in at less than a tenth of what their larger cousins weigh.
- For quite some time, pygmy hippos were thought to be juvenile members of their larger cousin’s species. Scientists didn’t realize that these pint-sized plant eaters were unique until 1911.
- Unlike the common hippo, which are nothing if not party animals and can congregate in groups of up to 150 animals, pygmy hippos like to keep to themselves. They’re only ever found in pairs during breeding season or if a mother has young.
Why are they threatened?
The future of these tiny hippos is a bit murky, since they face a wide number of threats. One major concern is the dramatic changes that have occurred in their home range—much of which has happened in the past year.
Logging and deforestation for agricultural use has caused the animals to retreat into increasingly fragmented areas, and gold mining operations disturb their range in the Ivory Coast. They’re also often hunted for bushmeat.
Unfortunately, while they’re protected by law in many countries, civil unrest and lack of funding for protection and conservation practices mean that these illegal activities often go on without repercussion.