Pygmy Hippopotamus – Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis
The size of the Pygmy Hippo is substantially smaller than that of the other species which is the Common Hippo. However, tipping the scales at about one ton is nothing small to bat an eye about. They are very large animals and the distinct features of them ensure they won’t be easily mistaken for any other type of animal in the world. They are in a class all of their own.
Many people are quite impressed with the overall body of the Pygmy Hippo. The biggest part of the body is the middle which is often referred to as the barrel. They have extremely short and stocky legs. However, they are designed to hold up the weight of the overall body of this animal. An extremely small tail looks almost completely out of place on this particular animal.
You will notice that they have a very large head with a mouth that is large enough to blow you away. Inside of that mouth are molars made from ivory. This is a fact that often results in the senseless killing of these animals. In order for the Pygmy Hippo to be able to breath under the water, they have the nostrils set up on top of the head. That is also where their eyes and ears are located.
Even though they have very small ears, they also have an amazing sense of hearing. They can also see very well both during the day and at night. Since they are nocturnal they are able to sleep during the day in the water.
The thoughts on evolution for the Pygmy Hippo continue to circulate, but we really don’t have all the facts. We do know that there are signs of extinct species of Hippos out there. From them, we also know that these animals used to be much smaller than they are not. It is also believed that at one time they were only land animals and not semi aquatic as they are today.
They are extremely powerful and they are going to control their territory no matter what it takes to do so. There is often conflicts among them in the water but not so much on land. There are different social groups within the herd. You will find the females with the young in one area, females without young in another. You will also find the bachelor males in one group and the dominant male alone.
It is fascinating to listen to a group of Pygmy Hippos due to the loud commotion that they can take part in. They are very vocal, especially when they feel threatened. We still need to conduct lots of research though before we do know what all of it means. They mothers are very vocal when it comes to the interactions they have as a means to teach their young.
Habitat and Distribution
There aren’t too many places out there where you will find the Pygmy Hippo living in the wild. They are now only living in a very small region around Africa, in the West portion of it. They tend to prefer bodies of water that are surrounded by the swamp and that are in a forest.
The biggest threat to them at this point in time is due to their habitat being taken away. Many of the forests that they once called home are being cleared away. They are being used by humans for things to promote their own desires. At the same time the climate continues to heat up and that can dry out many of these swamps they used to find refuge in during the daylight hours.
The Pygmy Hippo does do very well in captivity. Still, there are really only so many zoos out there that can successfully afford to house them. They do draw in quite a crowd though as humans seem to be very interested in watching these animals.
Diet and Feeding habits
The biggest expense for the Pygmy Hippos in captivity tends to be to feed them. They can consume 100 pounds of vegetation daily. This is also a significant reason why they aren’t doing so well in the wild. When humans continue to clear out the forests, they are limited in where they can find the food supply that they need to thrive. When the mothers can’t get enough nutrition they also fail to make enough milk for their offspring to survive.
Most people assume that the Pygmy Hippos only mate during the heavy rains that are seasonal. While that is when most of it does occur, the truth is that they can mate throughout the year. The mature females in the herd will go through estrus cycles that last a few days. During this time they will mate several times with the dominant male. The exception will be the mature females that are already taking care of young.
The bachelor males in a herd often have a strong desire to mate. They may challenge that dominant male to do so. Almost always though they will back off before a physical confrontation occurs. They know that they won’t be able to take him on. When that urge to mate is too strong, those younger males will leave the herd in an attempt to create one of their own where they can do so.
Mating takes place in the water after some rituals of grunting and other movements have occurred. The female will give birth about 200 days later. She will have her young in the water but try to move to a swallow location. It is important that her young is able to surface immediately after birth for that crucial first breath.
They are amazing at caring for their young offspring. Typically they will do so for a few years of life. Even though the young are able to start consuming plants when they are a few months old, she gives them milk from her body for about a year. It is full of the nutrients they need for proper growth.
These young Pygmy Hippos are at least 60 pounds when they are born. That makes them something predators often look at as source of food. Still, most of these predators often keep their distance. The large cats know too well that an encounter with an angered mother can be their demise. They will lurk though and take a chance when a youngster strays too far from its mother while on land. It is extremely rare that a predator will ever attempt to take down an adult Pygmy Hippo.
The larger that these young get though the less likely it becomes that they will become a meal for other predators. Still, their worries are far from over. Humans continue to be a huge threat to them. They are often hunted for sport, as a source of meat, and for illegal selling of their ivory teeth. The advanced weapons that humans now have makes it easier for them to take down the Pygmy Hippo than in the past.