Hippos: Threatened by hunters and a shrinking habitat?
The Ancient Greeks named the hippopotamus “water horse” because it may spend up to 16 hours a day resting or moving slowly in lakes and rivers to keep cool. Despite its love of water, the hippo can’t swim—or even float! Its body is much too dense for that.
The so-called “water horse” looks more like a giant pig than a horse. But it’s not related to either one. The hippo’s closest relatives are cetaceans, which include porpoises and whales. Maybe that helps explain its love of water!
How Nikela Helps
Currently Nikela does not have a project that directly protects Hippo. Many awareness campaigns however address the plight of all African wild animals and birds due to trophy hunting and other pressures. Nikela is for preserving all wild things and their wild places.
Facts About Hippos
The hippopotamus is a mammal in the order Artiodactyla and the family Hippopotamydae.
Common hippos live in both savanna and forest areas in sub-Saharan Africa. Pygmy hippos, which are much smaller than common hippos, live in parts of Western Africa.
The common hippo is the third largest land mammal. It has a barrel-shape body, almost hairless, and stubby legs. The average adult common hippo weighs about 1,300 to 1,500 kg (2,900 to 3,300 lbs). The pygmy hippo is about one-fourth the size of a common hippo. An adult pygmy hippo may weight about 180 to 275 kg (397 to 606 lbs).
Both common and pygmy hippos are herbivores, eating plants, leaves, grasses, and fallen fruit.
The common hippo can appear peaceful and lazy, but don’t be fooled. With its giant canine teeth and a ton or more of weight, the common hippo can be aggressive when it feels threatened. It is especially ferocious when protecting its territory. In fact, although it’s smaller than either the elephant or rhinoceros, the common hippo is sometimes called the most dangerous animal in Africa!
The pygmy hippo is much shyer and gentler, and it is more solitary as well. Scientists believe the pygmy hippo actively avoids other hippos, meeting only briefly to mate. Unlike the common hippo, it is not territorial, meaning it does not protect certain territory. It generally rests in water during the day and becomes more active at night.
Hippos’ skin secretes, or lets out, a reddish substance known as “blood sweat.” It really does look like blood—but it’s not. This thick, oily substance protects hippos’ skin, allowing them to stay in water or in dry, hot air for long periods without harm. It may also help hippos’ wounds heal faster.
Conservation Status and Threats
The common hippo has an IUCN status of “Vulnerable” because recent estimates show a 10 to 20 percent decline in population. Experts estimate that the common hippo population will drop more than 30 percent in the next 30 years.
The pygmy hippo has an IUCN status of “Endangered.” Recent population estimates indicate there may be fewer than 3,000 pygmy hippos left in the wild.
Both types of hippos are threatened by habitat loss due to logging and human settlement. Pygmy hippos are particularly sensitive to habitat loss. In Liberia, where most of the remaining pygmy hippos live, experts say legal protection for pygmy hippos is insufficient and poorly enforced, and logging of their habitats continues. Hunters also kill both common and pygmy hippos for the ivory in their teeth, as well as for meat.
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Katharine Colton