March 11, 2008—Emerging tentatively from the forest cover, a pygmy hippo recently caught on film proves that the mysterious species still survives in war-ravaged West Africa.
The endangered pint-size hippo was photographed last month by motion- and heat-sensing cameras set up in Sapo National Park in Liberia by a team led by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
Scientists had feared the secretive forest mammal was extinct in the region, following two recent brutal civil wars that left Liberia's forests almost empty of larger animals.
Never previously photographed in Liberia, the pygmy hippo is found only in West Africa, where less than 3,000 remain in the wild, said ZSL researcher Ben Collen.
"Hunting by illegal gold miners poses the most immediate threat to the Sapo population," he added.
One of only two living hippopotamus species, the pygmy is only a tenth of the size of the common hippopotamus, Collen said.
"Pygmy hippos hide out during the day in wallows or along riverbanks," he said. "They emerge at night to forage for fallen fruit, tubers, and leaves."
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