A rare and secretive female pygmy hippo has died at the Nairobi Safari Walk.
Elizabeth was part of a pair of pygmy hippos donated by the President of Liberia, the late William Tubman, as a gift to Kenyans through the late President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, in the 1970s.
Kenya Wildlife Service veterinary doctors are conducting a post-mortem examination to determine the cause of the animal’s death.
Unlike the Nile hippo, which is indigenous to East Africa, the Pygmy hippo is found in isolated pockets of West African forests and swamps of the Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and possibly Nigeria and Guinea.
Pygmy hippos are severely threatened due to deforestation and bush meat hunting with an estimated 2,000-3,000 individuals remaining, according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
Pygmy hippos are primarily threatened by loss of habitat, as forests are logged and converted to farm land, and are also vulnerable to poaching for meat and natural predators.
The name Hippopotamus came from the Greek, and it meant horse. They called it the river horse but they are more closely related to the pig than a horse.
Two hippo species are found in Africa. The large hippo, found in East Africa, which occurs in large numbers in south of the Sahara. The other, much smaller species of hippo is the pygmy hippopotamus is limited West Africa, it is a shy, solitary forest dweller and now rare.
At first glance, the pygmy hippopotamus looks like a mini version of its larger relative, the Nile hippopotamus (also known as the river or common, hippopotamus).
But on closer examination there are other differences besides size. The pygmy hippo has adaptations for living in the water but is much less aquatic than the Nile hippo. Not only is the pygmy hippo much smaller, it is much rarer, found only in the interior forests in parts of West Africa.
They are more pig-like in shape than Nile hippopotamuses, with proportionately smaller heads and proportionately longer legs and necks. The pygmy hippo is reclusive and nocturnal.