Hippo Conservation is
critical to the overall health of African wetlands. These ecosystems
have evolved for millions of years with hippos living in them.
Hippos often live in groups of tens to hundreds.
The removal of this multi-ton species from a habitat would
obviously have dramatic, though unpredictable, consequences.
last formal estimate of common and pygmy hippo populations was
conducted by the IUCN Hippo SubGroup in 2004. This estimate
suggested between 125,000 and 148,000 common hippos and no more than
2,000-3,000 pygmy hippos remain in the wild. To learn more,
visit the Hippo SubGroup's country-by-country assessments of
hippo conservation status and protection efforts
While efforts to relist
common and pygmy hippos based on the 2004 estimates are underway,
formal conservation status are still based on results from 1994.
The hippo-related portions of the 1993 IUCN
Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan: Pigs, Peccaries,
and Hippos Edited by William L.R. Oliver is currently available for
download in .PDF format.
The last formal
assesment of the populations of common hippos (Hippopotamus
amphibius) and pygmy hippos (Hexaprotodon liberiensis)
by the Hippo SubGroup occurred 1994. This assessment remains
the source of their current conservation status. The results
of the assessment are published in the IUCN Red
List. However, another assessment occurred in 2004
and has provided new recommendations.
Hippopotamus (Hippopotmaus amphibius) Listing
2004 IUCN Hipo SubGroup
Hip. amphibius - Category (Proposed):
Vulnerable - Reason A2 (A1(c) and A1(d))
Hip. amphibius tschadensis - No proposed
1994 IUCN Listing
Hip. amphibius - Lower Risk/Least Concern
Hip. amphibius tschadensis - Category:
Vulnerable - Reason: A1a
IUCN Hippo SubGroup Assessment
lib. liberiensis) - Category (Proposed): Endangered -
Reasons: B1b(iii) and C1
lib. heslopi) - No proposed changes
Liberian (Hex. lib. liberiensis) - Category:
Vulnerable - Reasons: C2a and E
Nigerian (Hex. lib. heslopi) - Category: Critically
Endangered - Reason: D1
The online version of the Red List
provides detailed explanations of how the IUCN compiles data, as well
as the categories and criteria for the various
conservation threat levels.
Common and pygmy hippos are also
protected under Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Pressures on Common Hippos
of the primary pressures on common hippos comes from human
encroachment. Hippos tend to prefer to live in areas of
slow-moving fresh water with nearby flat grassy areas to feed.
This is exactly the sort of area that humans also find
second cause for concern is an increased interest in their
teeth. With the current international trade ban on elephant
ivory, carvers and buyers have been forced to look for alternative
materials that are not subject to the same import/export restrictions.
Hippos have carvable canine teeth that measure upwards of 60 cm in
length. The result, a more than 530% increase in the
annual export of hippo teeth from Africa within two years of the ivory
ban taking effect. Evidence of the market for hippo teeth is
exemplified by one customs seizure in May 1997 of 1,738 illegally
smuggled hippo teeth passing through Orly airport in Paris.
The teeth came from Uganda and were bound for the Far East.
Today, for every one hippo remaining in the wild, there are 3
to 4 African elephants.
has also become an increased concern over the last decade -
particularly in areas of civil unrest. In the Democractic
Republic of Congo, once a major hippo stronghold, populations have
declined by as much as 95%. Hippo poaching has historically
increased in areas where a combination of foot shortages, the
proliferation of high-powered rifles, and a breakdown in the rule of
law have taken place. In more stable areas, hippos still
occasionally find their way into snares and the results can be
heartbreaking. However, other threats currently pose a more
Courtesy of: Honorary Rangers Counter Poaching & Investigative
Unit - South African Parks
Pressures on Pygmy Hippos
accurate evaluation of the status of pygmy hippos is not currently
available. The largest abundance is assumed to live in
Liberia, with the largest concentration in the Sapo National Forest.
However, years of political unrest have made monitoring
impossible. At best, 3000 pygmy hippos may still remain.
Other isolated populations may exist in the neighboring
countries of Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone, however these groups may
be numbered in no more than the dozens.
- A group
of pygmy hippos once lived in Nigeria. In 1969, these animals
were identified as representing an entirely new subspecies, Hexaprotodon
liberiensis heslopi. Unfortunately, there have been
no confirmed sightings of pygmy hippos in Nigeria in decades,
though unofficial reports provide some encouragement that they may
To learn more about the
status of common and pygmy hippos, please view
our conservation maps by clicking on the images below.
Or see the Hippo SubGroup's
country-by-country assessment of hippo conservation status and