Pygmy hippopotamus

  • Relatives: even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla) → hippopotamuses (Hippotimidae)
  • Habitat: rainforests, near flowing waters
  • Diet: ferns, roots, tubers, herbs, leaves, fallen fruit, aquatic plants
  • Life expectancy: up to 40 years
  • Way of life: nocturnal solitary animal
  • Reproduction: gestation period: approx. 200 days

Pygmy hippopotamuses resemble their large relatives. But they are much smaller and lighter, with a height of about 1.75 metres and a weight of up to 250 kilograms. A difference to the large hippopotamuses is also shown in their behaviour in case of danger: in precarious situations they prefer to flee on land rather than into the water. However, pygmy hippopotamuses are good divers and swimmers. In order to avoid the penetration of water when diving, they are able to close their ears and nostrils. On land they sleep a lot and like to retreat into thick vegetation for this purpose.

Sun protection in self-production
Pygmy hippopotamuses are native to West Africa, where they live in the rainforest. They are dependent on the proximity to water. Because their epidermis – the outermost layer of grey to brown-black skin – is very thin and dries out easily, they partially stay in the water for hours. The extensive baths keep the skin elastic. In addition, special glands secrete a reddish substance which protects them against solar radiation.
The mating as well as the birth of pygmy hippopotamuses can take place on land and in the water. Young animals are immediately able to swim.
The nocturnal solitary animals are highly endangered because of hunting and loss of their habitat. In one part of their geographic range they are already extinct, for example in Nigeria.

You can experience these and many other animals at Rostock Zoo, home to 4,500 animals in 450 different species from all over the world.