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Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) & Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choerpsis liberiensis) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Population Status

Common hippos

  • Global population estimate: 115,000-130,000 individuals (Lewison and Pluháček 2017)
    • Largest populations in eastern and southern Africa
    • Much smaller populations in western Africa
    • See Lewison and Pluháček (2017) for detailed regional estimates
  • 1990-2010: 7-20% reduction in Common Hippo populations

Pygmy hippos

  • Total population size unknown (Ransom et al. 2015)
  • One study suggests 2,000-3,000, but really is unknown (Lewison & Oliver 2008a referencing Eltringham 1993)
  • Two key areas for Pygmy Hippo habitat and conservation:
    • Sapo National Park in eastern Liberia - 1318 sq km (509 sq mi)
    • Tai National Park in western Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire)


Conservation Status

IUCN Status

  • Common Hippo: Vulnerable (2017 assessment) (Lewison and Pluháček 2017)
  • Pygmy Hippo: Endangered (2015 assessment) (Ransom et al. 2015)


CITES Status

Threats to Survival

  • Common Hippo
    • Not in immediate danger of extinction but vulnerable because of specialized ecology
    • Loss of grazing habitat
    • Desertification of some parts of Africa
    • Many groups in West Africa have less than 50 animals
  • Pygmy Hippo
    • Farming and human settlement
    • Logging which leads not only to habitat destruction but is often tied to poaching when forests become more accessible
    • Wars in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia
    • Limited enforcement of existing protections in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Ivory Coast
    • Oil pollution in estuaries by the sea further threaten Pygmy Hippo populations. (Oliver 1993)
    • Conservation status and viability of this species considered poor. (Lewison & Oliver 2008 in IUCN assessment)
  • Major threat: Humans
    • Increasing human population, timber and fish industries
      • Killed because of destructiveness to crops and attacks on fishermen
      • Hunted for fish bait in some areas
    • Hunted for meat in some areas
      • Hams are palatable but carcasses spoil quickly in hot weather
      • Meat is avoided in some areas (Zambians believe it causes leprosy)
      • Muslim communities consider it too closely related to the pig
    • Main trophy product is tusks (softer and easier to carve than the true ivory of elephant tusks)
    • Thick hide is cut into strips and rubbed with fat to form a whip known in South Africa as the "sjambok"

Future Home of the Hippo?

Hippo swimming underwater

Wild populations of common hippos, especially in West Africa, are decreasing due to logging, farming, and other human settlement.

Habitat loss has also resulted in increased levels of poaching, mainly for the hippo's ivory tusks.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Lewison & Oliver (2008a,b)
Nowak (1991)
Oliver (1993)
Kingdon (1979)

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