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Pygmy hippos are browsers and feed on a variety of vegetation, including leaves, aquatic plants, fallen fruit, roots and tubers. They use their strong, muscular lips instead of their teeth to tear vegetation.
Pygmy hippos are found in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in West Africa. They live in heavily forested areas close to streams and swamps. They are mainly nocturnal and are thought to spend the day hidden in dense vegetation or swampy areas.
Little is known about the breeding behaviour of pygmy hippos in the wild; the information we have comes from captive animals. Females give birth in shallow water or on land. Calves weigh about 5kg at birth. Usually one calf is born, but twins occur very occasionally. Mothers will leave their calves hidden while they forage for food. They start following their mother at around 3-5 months old. The young are weaned by about 8 months of age but may stay with their mother until they are several years old.
There is little information available about the predators of pygmy hippos, but potential predators include leopards and crocodiles. Young pygmy hippos may be preyed upon by a larger variety of predators, including African golden cats, African civets and African rock pythons.
The main threat faced by pygmy hippos is habitat loss and fragmentation, as forests have been used for logging, farming, plantations and building settlements. They also face threats from hunting for their meat.
Pygmy hippos are protected by law in all the countries they are present in and are on Appendix II of CITES, which means that trade in any parts of the animal is restricted. Most pygmy hippos live in protected areas, and all the countries in which they live have developed strategies which should help protect the hippos.
Size Head-body: 150-175cm; shoulder height: 75-100cm
Gestation Approximately 6 months
Life span Up to 40 years
The skin of pygmy hippos looks greasy. This is because their skin has special glands that secrete a substance called ‘blood sweat’, which acts as an antibiotic and sun cream.
Pygmy hippos can close their ears and nostrils when they dive underwater.
Pygmy hippos don’t swim. They actually move along the bottom of the water in a slow-motion gallop.
Pygmy hippos mark the areas they travel along by spreading dung. They do this by rapidly wagging their tail while they poo!