The hippopotamus is surely among the most familiar – and most conspicuous – of Africa’s megafauna. Its pocket-sized relative, the pygmy hippo, is an entirely different matter. Confined to a dwindling number of suitable sites in West Africa, pygmy hippos continue to decline dramatically in number, due mainly to habitat loss and hunting.
Nocturnal, elusive and mainly solitary, these denizens of the deep forest are very rarely seen, or even heard. Rotund, thick-necked and hairless, pygmy hippos spend the day hidden in rivers and swamps before emerging to feed at night.
Don’t be misled by the name. Pygmy hippos still top the scales at a hefty 250 kilos. That’s roughly the same as a fully grown pig. Nevertheless, they are dwarfed by their colossal cousins. Nose to tail, the pygmy hippo is half the length of its more common counterpart, but the real difference is in bulk; the common hippo weighs ten times as much as the pygmy hippo.