Pygmy hippopotamus

Pygmy Hippo — an animal that was discovered relatively recently (in 1911). The very first descriptions of him (on the bones and skull) were made back in the 1850s. The founder of this species is the zoologist Hans Schombur. Additional individual names — Pygmy hippopotamus and Liberian pygmy hippopotamus (Pygmy hippopotamus, Latin Choeropsis liberiensis).

Species origin and description

Photo: Dwarf hippo

Photo: Pygmy hippo

The pygmy hippopotamus belongs to the family of hippopotamus mammals. It was originally included in the common hippopotamus genus. A little later, a separate generic group was created for him, referred to as Choeropsis. Despite the large number of attempts to draw parallels between pygmy hippos and other individuals of this class, a separate group for this category of animals was not canceled. It operates to this day. This happens because of the uniqueness of hippopotamus representatives, the features of their appearance, behavior and location (which will be discussed later).

Video: Pygmy hippopotamus

The main “relatives” of the pygmy hippopotamus are:

  • Madagascar pygmy hippopotamus. Descendants of common hippos. The small size of these representatives is associated with the isolation of their habitats and insular dwarfism;
  • Nigerian pygmy hippopotamus. The ancestors of these animals were also common hippos. Nigerian individuals lived in the limited Niger Delta.

Both related animals did not survive the isolated life and became extinct in the historical era. The last Nigerian representatives were recorded at the beginning of the 20th century. Madagascar, on the other hand, were exterminated more than a thousand years ago.

Interesting fact: The hippopotamus family includes only two genera of hippos: ordinary and pygmy. All modern representatives of these categories are found only in Africa.

Appearance and Features

Photo: Madagascar Pygmy Hippo

Photo: Madagascar Pygmy Hippo

Already from the name of the individual, one can guess that its dimensions are much smaller than the dimensions of ordinary hippos. This is the most important distinguishing characteristic of the appearance of representatives of the dwarf class. In terms of body structure, individuals of both hippopotamus groups are similar.

When drawing a mental image of Pygmy hippopotamus, rely on the following key characteristics of its appearance:

  • rounded spine. Unlike ordinary hippos, dwarf ones have a non-standard spine structure. The back is slightly inclined forward, which allows the animals to absorb undersized plants with great comfort;
  • limbs and neck. These parts of the body of a dwarf representative are slightly longer (compared to ordinary hippos);
  • head. The skull of the “reduced” representatives is smaller than that of its standard counterparts. At the same time, the eyes and nostrils do not protrude forward so much. Only one pair of incisors is observed in the mouth;
  • dimensions. Ordinary hippos can weigh up to several tons. The optimal weight of an adult dwarf representative & # 8212; about 300 kg. The height of such an animal ranges from 70 to 80 cm, and the length of the body — approximately 160 cm;
  • leather. The color of representatives of Pygmy hippopotamus can be dark greenish (combined with black) or brown. The belly area is lighter. The skin is dense. The protruding sweat is presented in a light pink shade.

Compared to the standard and familiar to animal lovers hippos, pygmy ones really seem like a kind of mini-version. But, unfortunately, reduced representatives are inferior to their older counterparts in terms of life expectancy. In the wild, pygmy hippopotamuses live only up to 35 years (in the zoo, their lifespan is slightly longer).

Where does the pygmy hippopotamus live?

Photo: Pygmy hippopotamus in Africa

Photo: Pygmy hippopotamus in Africa

Pygmy hippopotamuses naturally inhabit African countries.

The main range of these artiodactyls falls on:

  • Sudan (a republic bordering Egypt, Libya, Chad, etc., and washed by the waters of the Red Sea in its northeastern part);
  • Congo (a country located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and bordering Cameroon, Angola, Gabon, etc.);

  • Liberia (a state with access to the Atlantic Ocean and bordering Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast).

Pygmy hippos prefer to live in green areas. Water is an essential factor in their habitat. These artiodactyls are shy animals. For this reason, they choose quiet, secluded places where you can safely spend your time and not be under the threat of enemy attacks. Most often, pygmy hippos choose small swamps or overgrown rivers with a slow current as their home. Hippos lead a semi-submarine life. Therefore, they live in burrows located in close proximity to a body of water.

Interesting fact: Pygmy hippos never create their own shelter. They only complete the “building” of other animals (which have the ability to dig the ground), expanding holes to fit their dimensions.

Representatives of hippos do not tolerate extreme heat. It is impossible to meet them in an open area where there are no reservoirs. Usually animals live in state reserves and protected national parks.

Now you know where the pygmy hippopotamus lives. Let's see what it eats.

What does the pygmy hippo eat?

Photo: Pygmy hippopotamus from the Red Book

Photo: Pygmy hippopotamus from the Red Book

Pygmy hippos are herbivorous mammals. Their distinguishing feature — four-chambered stomach. They mainly eat low-growing grass (which is why they are referred to as pseudo-ruminants). “Hunting” for plants begins with the advent of dusk and dawn. Getting out of its hole, the animal goes to the nearest “pasture” and grazes there for 3 hours (morning and evening).

Dwarf individuals eat relatively slowly and little. They eat grass per day, the mass of which is comparable to 1-2% of the total weight of the animal (no more than 5 kg). At the same time, even such a small “snack” is enough for hippos to maintain a full life and maintain a sufficient level of energy. Perhaps this is due to the good metabolism of animals.

Usually, hippos of this class eat aquatic vegetation and soft root systems. Animals love to feast on leaves from bush trees, as well as their fruits. They willingly pluck all the grasses they can reach.

Interesting fact: In order to get a tasty fruit or leaf from a bush/small tree, pygmy hippos can stand on their hind legs. At the same time, the front ones press the desired branch to the ground.

Hippopotamus representatives do not chew the vegetation that has fallen into the mouth. They hardly use their teeth. Even when pulling plants out of the ground, they use their lips. Most of the food goes down the throat entirely immediately after it is crushed by the lips of the animal.

Unlike their standard counterparts, who do not disdain to eat carrion and small dying animals, dwarf individuals eat exclusively plant foods (at any time of the year) . This happens due to the fact that there is no lack of salts and microorganisms in their body.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Pygmy Hippo Baby

Photo: Pygmy Hippo Baby

Pygmy hippos lead a predominantly solitary lifestyle. Animals do not group together for survival (as their larger classmates do). You can see them in pairs only during the breeding season. At the same time, hippos use fecal markings to indicate their location. Olfactory signals help them communicate reproductive status.

Pygmy hippopotamus — not only solitary, but also rather silent animals. Basically, they snort quietly, creak and hiss. In addition, representatives of this genus can grunt. No other sound expressions were marked.

Both female and male representatives of the dwarf genus prefer sedentary behavior. Most of the time (mainly during the day) they rest in small depressions near water bodies or overgrown places. Such animals cannot do without water. This is due to the peculiarities of their skin, which constantly requires bathing. For food, hippos go to the dark time (sunrise/sunset).

Research scientists have shown that a dwarf male needs about 2 square meters of personal space. Private territory allows animals to feel safe. Females are less demanding in this regard. They need 0.5 square meters of their own space. All representatives of the dwarf group do not like to stay in one place for a long time. They change their “home” about 2 times a week.

It is quite difficult to meet pygmy hippos in their natural environment. Representatives of this species are rather shy and rarely come out of their hiding places during the daytime. However, there are known cases of the appearance of these animals in agricultural land. But even here, the hippopotamuses carefully avoided meeting people.

Social Structure and Reproduction

Photo: Pygmy Hippo

Photo: Pygmy hippo

There are no external differences between females and males of small hippos. Sexual maturity of individuals of a dwarf species occurs in the 3-4th year of life. The moment of mating can occur at any time of the year. Required factor — female estrus. It lasts for several days. During this period, the expectant mother can be fertilized several times. Since the process of reproduction was studied only in captivity (it is almost impossible to observe this phenomenon in the natural environment), monogamous mating was established.

The female hippo carries her cub from 180 to 210 days. The behavior of the future mother before the immediate birth is quite aggressive. She is wary of all surrounding animals, thereby protecting her health of an unborn child. Protection continues after the birth of the “baby”. Baby hippos are considered easy prey for predators. They are not adapted to independent living and are quite vulnerable. Therefore, the mother tries in every possible way to protect her child and rarely leaves him (only to look for food).

Most often, only one hippo is born. But there have been (albeit rare) cases of twins being born. The newborn weighs about 5-7 kg. The animals that were born are already well developed. At first, they are practically motionless and are in the place where they were born. The mother periodically leaves them in order to find food. Until the age of 7 months, they feed exclusively on milk. After that, the period of their formation in the natural environment begins — the parent teaches the cub to eat grass and leaves of small bushes.

Female hippos can give birth both in water bodies and on land. At the same time, most childbirth under water ends with the drowning of the cub. Animals are ready for a new pregnancy already 7-9 months after the birth of the baby. The study of the process of reproduction of hippos was carried out only in captivity. Scientists still cannot conduct full-fledged observations of animals in their natural environment. This is due to their small number and location features.

Natural enemies of pygmy hippos

Photo: Pygmy hippopotamus in nature

Photo: Pygmy hippopotamus in nature

In the natural environment, pygmy hippos have several serious enemies at once:

  • crocodiles — the most dangerous predators on the planet. They belong to the group of reptiles. They hunt at any time of the day. Especially dangerous for those representatives of the hippos who prefer to lie down near water bodies. Able to get hippos as prey, many times their size. It is interesting that crocodiles do not chew a dead carcass (due to the special structure of their teeth, they are not capable of this). Large reptiles tear the dead animal to pieces and swallow whole pieces of its body. Crocodiles choose mostly weak hippos and drown them. Recently born individuals are more at risk;
  • leopards — the most terrible mammalian predator from the category of cats. They hunt hippos mostly alone. The leopard is able to wait for a prey in ambush for a long period. A meeting with such an animal for hippos almost always ends sadly. In addition to self-hunting, cats often select already affected prey from other predators. The danger of a leopard attacking a pygmy hippopotamus increases in the dark — when animals go out in search of food;
  • hieroglyphic pythons — very large non-venomous snakes from the class of true pythons. Such individuals hunt mainly at night. They move silently on water and land, which allows them to sneak up on the victim unnoticed. Pythons infect hippos weighing no more than 30 kg. After strangling the victim, the snake begins its gradual absorption. After such a hearty meal, a python can go without food for several weeks.

Earlier, people engaged in uncontrolled fishing were also considered a serious enemy of pygmy hippos. These animals were valued on the black market and purchased at a high cost. Today, this activity has practically disappeared. Individuals of this group of hippos are under special control.

Population and species status

Photo: Pygmy hippo in Liberia

Photo: Pygmy hippopotamus in Liberia

Due to active deforestation and illegal actions of the inhabitants of Africa (killing and reselling animals), pygmy representatives of the hippos are on the verge of extinction. Naturally born babies rarely reach fertile age.

There are two main reasons for this:

  • worsening living conditions. The constant settlement of new territories by people requires deforestation and planting of natural pastures. Due to high temperatures, water bodies dry up. As a result, hippos are deprived of a normal environment for life. They cannot find enough food (because they are not able to move long distances) and decent shelters. Like outcome — death of animals.
  • poaching. Strict control of dwarf individuals does not bother the poachers of Africa. It is from their hands that most of the animals of the planet die. This is especially true for areas where the protection of the species has not been established. The killing of animals is explained by their strong skin and rather tasty meat.

Interesting fact: Because of their relatively small size, hippos were unwittingly treated as a group of domestic animals for some time. They could be freely bought for several thousand dollars and “educated” on their own, surprising every guest with an unusual tenant in the apartment. >Photo: Pygmy hippopotamus from the Red Book

Photo: Pygmy hippopotamus from the Red Book

The number of animals in this group is actively declining. In the last 10 years alone, the number of pygmy hippos has decreased by 15-20%. The current number of representatives of pygmy hippos in the current century has reached the mark of a thousand (by comparison — in the XX century there were about 3 thousand representatives of this class).

Interesting fact: Pygmy hippos fleeing a potential enemy never run into bodies of water (despite the fact that this place is considered quite safe). Animals prefer to hide in the forests.

Animals of the dwarf genus, unfortunately, belong to an endangered species. That is why special conditions are organized for them in zoos and national parks. At the same time, the life of animals in an artificially created environment (captivity) is much better and better (animals can live up to 40-45 years).

Pygmy hippopotamus — a unique creation, which, unfortunately, is becoming less and less every year. This species of hippos is listed in the Red Book with the status — «Endangered Species». Active work is underway to restore the population, but things are moving extremely slowly. Representatives of wildlife conservation annually develop more and more programs for the conservation of individuals. We hope that the number of pygmy hippos will only grow over time.

Rate article
Add a comment