Photos of rare pygmy hippo in Liberia
Rare pygmy hippo photographed for first time in Liberia
Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com
March 12, 2008
Secretive Pygmy Hippo caught on film is good news for war-torn Liberia
It’s almost as though this normally shy mammal were posing for the camera. The black-and-white image of a pygmy hippopotamus half-facing the camera is the first ever of a pygmy hippopotamus in Liberia. Perhaps even more astonishing EDGE, the organization that accomplished the photo, believes the image to be only the second photographic evidence of the animal in the wild (the first was taken in 2006 in Sierra Leone). This incredibly secretive animal is usually known through its prints and dung.
In a blog on EDGE’s website Dr. Ben Colleen, one of the expedition members, described seeing the first photo: “I think we all spoke at once. Thomas whooped with joy, and then we had a round of applause. We excitedly flicked through the pictures to discover the hippo had returned.” The cameras, placed in Sapo National Park, had captured more than just pygmy hippos: a civet, a duiker, monkeys, and a white-breasted guinea-fowl. The cameras remain in the field and the EDGE team hopes to uncover even more evidence of the pygmy hippo and other rare species.
Photos courtesy of ZSL
The photographs are extremely important for Liberia, which has suffered from two civil wars in less than twenty years, the first lasted from 1989-1996 and the second from 1999-2003. Today Liberia contains the heaviest UN presence in the world, excluding the Congo. During the first civil war much of Sapo National Park’s infrastructure was destroyed and several of its rangers killed. In the more recent conflict thousands of hungry Liberians, whose homes were being looted, hunted in the park for subsistence, eating whatever they could kill.
Despite the terrible struggles, Sapo National Park remains a unique place of regional bio-diversity that, unlike many other parks, has never suffered from large-scale logging. Other inhabitants of the park include the Common Chimpanzee, the vulnerable Jentink’s Dukier, and the Diana Monkey and Forest Elephant, both endangered. Over one-hundred mammals and five hundred bird species have been recorded in the parks confines.
The pygmy hippopotamus is currently an EDGE focal species. EDGE, meaning Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered, is an initiative formed by the London Zoological Society to protect the world’s most unique species, many of which have been ignored by other conservation groups. While the pygmy hippopotamus has a healthy population in zoos across the globe, it remains greatly endangered in the wild: habitat loss, fragmentation, and bush meat have all caused its decline. After surveying the population, EDGE hopes to set-up conservation plans for the species’ long-term protection. Already, EDGE has hired John Connie, a Liberian biologist, to research the pygmy hippopotamus.