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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Species Fact Profile: Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis (Hexaprotodon) liberiensis)

Pygmy Hippopotamus
Choeropsis (Hexaprotodon) liberiensis  (Morton, 1849)
Range: W. Africa
Habitat: Lowland Rainforest, Wetlands
Diet: Herbs, Leaves, Grasses, Fruits, Shoots
Social Grouping: Solitary
Reproduction: Breeding has only been observed in captivity.  May mate either on land or in the water; after a gestation period of 6.5 months, a single calf (rarely twins) is born.  Calves are weaned at 6-8 months and are sexually mature at 3-5 years old.
Lifespan: 40+ Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Endangered, CITES Appendix II

  • Much smaller than common hippo: length 1.5-1.75 meters, height 75-100 centimeters, weight 180-275 kilograms
  • Anatomical differences with the common hippo include having eyes located on the sides of the head (instead of the top), reduced webbing on the feet, a smaller head in proportion to the body, and a black-green coloration
  • Little studied in the wild.  It is believed to spend much of its day in the water and emerge at night to feed.  Not thought to be territorial, but believed to avoid one another by scent marking through their home ranges by spraying feces
  • Have been observed in deep burrows alongside riverbanks, sometimes with underwater entrances.  It is not believed that the hippos dug these burrows themselves, but they may have enlarged them
  • Leopards are the only known predator of adult pygmy hippos, but crocodiles and pythons may also prey upon juveniles and calves
  • Habitat loss is the major threat to the species, with hunting for the bush-meat trade also posing a threat.  The Nigerian subspecies C. l. heslopi (the only subspecies apart from the nominate) may already by extinct
  • The existence of the pygmy hippo was controversial for many years - some scientists though it was a stunted or juvenile common hippo, others an extinct form of prehistoric hippo.  It was not accepted as a "real" animal until the first live specimens arrived in Europe in 1911
  • A pygmy hippo was gifted to President Calvin Coolidge by Harvey Firestone in 1927; “Billy” went to live in the National Zoo, and is now ancestor to most the US captive pygmy hippo population

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