Pygmy Hippos are elusive, solitary forest animals, listed as Endangered by IUCN. Their habitat has been eroded to such an extent that they are now restricted to just a 5,000 km² area of West Africa and in 1994 approximately 3000 animals were estimated to exist in the wild, although this is now likely to be much lower.
The loss of this species would be a terrible loss for the planet and the local West African communities whose environment and livelihood depend on the unique local fauna. We are carrying out pioneering work both in zoos and in the wild to help preserve the Pygmy Hippo and save it from extinction.
In captivity, a female biased sex ratio is found in Pygmy Hippos. It is difficult to influence this sex ratio because so little is understood about their reproductive biology. Since 2007, we have therefore been working with fifteen zoos throughout Europe to study the reproductive biology of female Pygmy Hippos.
This work is helping us to learn to monitor and understand the female hippos’ reproductive cycle, and how they are affected by the stresses of captivity, and also develop tests to tell whether an individual in the population is pregnant. The knowledge we gain here will give us the ability to successfully breed Pygmy Hippos in zoos and hopefully in time be able to manipulate the sex of the offspring.
We are also developing a program with our partner zoos to freeze and store gametes from individual pygmy hippos so that their biodiversity can be preserved for the future.
Tai National Park in the Ivory Coast is one of the last strongholds for the Pygmy Hippo and our ultimate project aim is to conserve this species. We are doing this by gathering knowledge of this species in its natural habitat and working with partner Ivorian scientists so that this knowledge stays in the country. We are also working to stimulate awareness amongst young Africans about the forest, the unique animals that live within it and the vital role they play in the future of the local communit (with emphasis given to the Pygmy Hippo), and the planet as a whole. As part of this we also encourage and support the adoption of forest conservation in local communities.
Time is running out for the Pygmy Hippo and our work requires YOUR support. Please click here to help us preserve this magnificent species.