Pygmy Hippo Danger
Bowdleflode News No. 47 – April 2022
The Plight of the Pygmy Hippo
A captive pygmy hippo being given an apple in a pool.
The hippopotamus is perhaps Africa’s most familiar and conspicuous megafauna. The same can’t be said for its pocket-sized relative, the lesser-known and endangered pygmy hippo. Nocturnal, elusive and introverted, these residents of the deep forest are very rarely seen, or even heard.
Don’t be fooled by the name; they may be nominally associated with miniature marmosets and small-scale shrews, but pygmy hippos still tip the scales at a hefty quarter of a tonne or more, though dwarfed by their colossal cousins.
Nose to tail, the pygmy hippo is half the length of its common counterpart, but the real difference is in bulk.
Pygmy hippos are plump, thick-necked and hairless. They get their glossy sheen from tiny mucus glands that pock-mark their sun-sensitive skin.
They frequent forested waterways, spending daytime in rivers and swamps before emerging to feed at night on a variety of grasses, shoots and fallen fruit.
So why are they endangered?
They are now confined to a dwindling number of suitable sites in West Africa and pygmy hippos continue to decline drastically in numbers.
Deforestation as a result of mining, logging, agricultural expansion and other forms of human intrusion has fragmented the remaining population and left many of them living in closer proximity to people, increasing the risk of further disturbance or unsustainable levels of hunting for meat.
The vast bulk – in both senses – of the world’s remaining pygmy hippos are found in Liberia, although smaller populations still survive across the border in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
A subspecies formerly found in Nigeria is now thought to be extinct.
Koala Weigh-in at Longleat
Baby koala being weighed at Longleat
Keepers have found an adorable way to weigh a baby koala. Longleat Safari Park, in Wiltshire, UK have a seven-month-old female koala who became the first ever southern koala born in Europe. To check it is in good health, staff weigh the new born marsupial once a week.
To make sure she is stress-free during the process, keepers have given her a cute cuddly toy while being weighed.
Koalas’ eat only eucalyptus leaves, so keeping a close eye on their weight makes sure they are eating enough, and their digestive systems are in order.
A Longleat spokesperson said: “As well as helping us to monitor her condition, the weekly weigh-in also helps her to get used to our presence and allows us to give her an overall health check.”
Koala babies are called ‘joeys’. They are born blind, hairless and the size of a jelly bean and within minutes of their birth they have to find their way into Mummy’s pouch where it grows and develops.
Occasionally they leave the pouch and explore but are dependent on mum until they are a year old.
Violet’s baby initially survived on milk but has been weaned off this and onto eucalyptus leaves in recent weeks. A plantation of eucalyptus trees has been established on the Longleat estate to provide the koalas with a regular supply of leaves. Longleat is one of only two places in the UK where koalas can be seen, the other being Edinburgh Zoo in Scotland.
The Longleat facility is part of a joint initiative between the government of South Australia, Cleland Wildlife Park and Longleat to support research and raise funds for koala conservation.
The animals have their own dedicated ‘Koala Creek’ enclosure at Longleat.
The baby joey hasn’t been named yet.
New Project at Chester Zoo
The zoo has just announced the release of its very first Climate and Sustainability Project package, designed for secondary students, though there are many school projects available for every educational stage and include topics such as biodiversity, habitats. deforestation and many more. All school projects are linked to one of the zoo’s conservation campaigns and aim to empower young people to make a difference for the environment – which is crucial for the future of our planet.
Bowdleflode of the Month
This month’s Bowdleflode has been created by Sofia, age 7
Meet… TIGER TOOTH PANDA!
Sofia describes her creation as:
“A panda face, as big as a tiger, with tiger teeth and feet and a wolf’s body. It has fur & a tail and eats bamboo. No meat.
He is lazy and swims on its back in rock pools.”
Thank you Sofia for your wonderful creation!