The common hippopotamus name means 'river horse' and the hippo spends most of its time in water.

Hippos and Humans

Common hippo: information collected from 34 African countries suggests that the total population of the common hippo in the whole of Africa is about 125,000 148,000 animals. They are not common in West Africa and the population is split into a number of small groups totalling about 7,000 spread over 19 countries. East Africa has about 70,000 and Southern Africa's total is around 80,000.

Numbers are decreasing in 18 African countries and are stable in only six. In only two countries, Congo and Zambia, are hippo numbers increasing. Populations most at risk are those in West Africa. Many of the groups there contain less than 50 animals each and in order to be relatively free from the risk of extinction, each population should probably number around 500.

The most serious threat to the future of the hippo is loss of habitat. There is usually no shortage of water for daytime retreats, except in times of serious drought, but there are reports of loss of grazing habitat to cultivation.

Hunting for meat, skins or for the trophy trade, occurs in a few countries but is probably not a serious threat.

Hippos do come into conflict with people quite often. Crops are damaged and fishermen kill the hippo because of its attacks on them. As the human population increases, this conflict is likely to become more serious. There is also the possibility that the canine teeth could be used in trade as a substitute for elephant ivory - the species would be at serious risk if this were to happen.

At the moment, the common hippo does not appear to be in danger of extinction but it is important to make sure that all hippo groups are protected to ensure their future survival. It must be remembered that the hippo can be a dangerous animal and any conservation plans have to take into consideration the safety of human populations.

Pygmy hippo: the pygmy hippo occurs mainly in Liberia, where it is widely distributed although it does not occur in large populations anywhere. The numbers are unknown but probably total a few thousand at the most. It is described as 'vulnerable' amongst the threatened animals of the world. Although numbers have probably declined recently there is, as yet, not enough evidence to class it as actually 'endangered'.

Although it is fully protected legally in all countries, the pygmy hippo is hunted for meat throughout its range except, apparently, in Guinea - perhaps it is too hard to find. It is not known for sure whether hunting is a threat to its survival, but with such small, scattered populations any killing is bound to have an effect. The main threat, however, is loss of habitat through forest clearance, particularly in Liberia, and, if the pygmy hippo is to survive, the forests in which it lives should be protected. Fortunately, it does breed well in captivity and there are 350 animals in collections around the world. One day it may be possible to reintroduce captive-bred animals into suitable, protected forests.

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