Camera trap captures first footage of pygmy hippos in Liberia

The Endangered and mysterious pygmy hippopotamus (hippo) has been caught on film for the first time in Liberia, thanks to a camera trapping project set up by Fauna & Flora International (FFI) in partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Forestry Development Authority of Liberia.

The camera traps form part of FFI’s monitoring programme in Sapo National Park in south-east Liberia, which aims to improve our understanding of the pygmy hippo as well as other rare and endangered species.

“Outside of folklore and zoos, we know surprisingly little about the nocturnal and secretive pygmy hippo,” explained Dr Chloe Hodgkinson, Liberia Programme Manager at FFI. “These camera surveys provide us with vital insight into the ecology, behaviour and distribution of this species.

“This information is extremely important, as it will help us design an effective conservation plan to ensure the survival of the pygmy hippo. With only around 2,000 left in the wild, it is now a race against time.”

The data gathered from the surveys has been used to build up a detailed map of the pygmy hippo’s distribution across Sapo National Park, and has also contributed to the development of the first conservation action plan for the species.

The action plan includes the reinforcement of protected areas and the development of links with local industry to minimise the destruction of pygmy hippo habitat. It has been approved by all four countries within the pygmy hippo range: Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Pygmy hippo occurrences in Liberia (Credit: IUCN SSC)

Map showing pygmy hippo occurrences in Liberia (credit: IUCN SSC). Click to enlarge

“The pygmy hippo is found only in the Upper Guinea Forest of West Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone), an area which has been severely reduced by wide-scale deforestation,” said Chris Ransom, ZSL conservationist and Chair of the IUCN Pygmy Hippo Specialist Group.

“Like all animals, pygmy hippos don’t observe country borders. It’s therefore essential that we take a cross-boundary approach to managing the threats that pygmy hippos face, in order to secure their survival.”

For more information, download the Pygmy Hippo Conservation Action Plan (PDF).