Hexaprotodon – Pygmy hippopotamus

Secrete a red substance through their skin to protect them from extreme sunlight, creating the myth that they sweat blood

A smaller and lesser-known relative of the common hippopotamus, it is a fascinating creature that calls the dense forests of West Africa its home. Unlike its larger cousin, the pygmy hippo leads a more terrestrial lifestyle, although it still relies heavily on water for hydration and skin protection.

Physically, the pygmy hippopotamus is distinctively smaller than the common hippopotamus, but it shares many of the same features, such as a barrel-shaped body, large mouth, and nearly hairless skin. Adult pygmy hippos typically weigh between 180 to 275 kilograms (400 to 600 pounds), a stark contrast to the up to 1,500 kilograms (3,300 pounds) of their larger counterparts. Their skin is adapted to live in water-rich environments, secreting a natural sunscreen that also acts as an antiseptic, protecting the animal from infections and sun damage.

The behavior of the pygmy hippopotamus is marked by its nocturnal activity patterns. These animals are solitary by nature, spending the day hidden in the dense vegetation of their forest habitat and emerging at night to feed. Their diet consists primarily of ferns, broad-leaved plants, fruits, and other vegetation found in the forest, contributing to their role as seed dispersers and influencers of vegetation patterns in their ecosystem.

The habitat of the pygmy hippopotamus is restricted to the tropical forests of West Africa, including countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Ivory Coast. These environments provide the dense cover and water sources that pygmy hippos require for survival. However, the very specificity of their habitat needs makes them particularly vulnerable to environmental changes and human activities.

Conservation efforts for the pygmy hippopotamus are urgently needed. With an estimated population of less than 3,000 individuals, the species has been classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).