- Length 1,4 - 1,6m
- Weight 180 - 270Kg
- Lifespan 42 years
- Diet Grass, fruit and aquatic plants
- Habitat Low forested areas with swamps, streams and rivers
- Reproduction 1 cub
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The Pygmy Hippo has a small, barrel-shaped body. The skin is bare and smooth, with a dark brown color on top, fading to a lighter color on the belly and throat. Some glands in the dermis produce a shiny, brownish secretion that protects sensitive skin from the sun. It has muscle valves in the ears and nose, closing them underwater.
They are extremely difficult to observe in nature and are rarely seen. They are highly solitary, except when a female has her young or is in the mating season. They are mainly nocturnal and twilight, spending the daily hours at rest. The Pygmy Hippos follow well-defined trails through the forest and swamp vegetation, which are marked by spreading their feces, wagging their tails vigorously while defecating. When frightened, they seek out forests or rivers to escape predators.
Males seek females only in the breeding season, which usually occurs in shallow water although it can also occur on land. The gestation period is approximately 6.5 months, and females usually have 1 cub, which becomes independent at 6 to 8 months. They reach sexual maturity at 4 to 5 years of age.
The mating period and the parental care of the mother for her offspring are the only contacts that individuals of this species maintain with each other.
It is estimated that there are only 2000 to 2400 mature individuals in the wild.
The distribution of the species in the area of origin has changed significantly over the past 50 years. Deforestation is its biggest threat, with forests being converted into cultivation or plantations. They are hunted predominantly for their meat, but many parts of their bodies, including the skull, can be used in rituals or traditional medicine.
In 2010, the IUCN Hippo Specialist Group and the London Zoological Society (ZSL) convened a workshop in Liberia to develop a Regional Strategy for the Conservation of the Pygmy Hippo to guide conservation and research activities related to this animal.