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Pygmy Hippopotamus Fact Sheet

  • Latin Name

    Choeropsis liberiensis
  • Class

  • Order

  • Range

    The pygmy hippo is found primarily in Liberia, although small numbers of the species can be found in neighboring West African nations.

  • Status

    Due to habitat loss, the pygmy hippo is endangered. Because the species is nocturnal and solitary, exact population numbers are unknown, but scientists estimate that 3,000 of the animals may live in the wild. Lincoln Park Zoo cooperatively manages pygmy hippopotamus populations with other institutions in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

  • Habitat

    The species makes its home in rivers running through West African forests. They often occupy burrows along the river's edge.

  • Niche

    Pygmy hippos spend much of their time in the water, as their skin requires frequent moisture to avoid drying out. At night, these herbivores leave the water, venturing into the forest in search of plants and fruits to eat. They establish trails in the forest to ease movement, marking their territory with feces.

  • Life History

    A solitary species, pygmy hippos generally come together only for breeding. Gestation lasts six-seven months, and young pygmy hippos can swim almost immediately after birth.

  • Special Adaptations

    • The pygmy hippo's skin secretes a red substance, giving rise to the legend that the species “sweats blood.” The substance isn't blood, but its function is unknown. Scientists believe it may serve as an antibiotic or help block excessive sunlight.
    • The eyes, ears and nose are located on the top of the head, enabling the species to see, smell and hear while the rest of its body is underwater.
    • The pygmy hippos' ears and nostrils pinch tightly shut when the animal dives underwater, making it easier for them to stay submerged.

Science Spotlight: Rachel Santymire, Ph.D.

Science Spotlight: Rachel Santymire, Ph.D.

Science Spotlight: Rachel Santymire, Ph.D.

From Sichuan takin pregnancies to black-footed ferret semen cryopreservation, western lowland gorilla stress hormones to pygmy hippo skin swabs, there’s no such thing as a typical day at the office for Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., director of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Davee Center for Endocrinology and Epidemiology.

Learn About the Davee Center’s Achievements


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