Mission: To conserve the pygmy hippopotamus in its natural habitat for now and the future.
Location: Ivory Coast, Africa
Amount donated: £871.92 towards camera trap research.
Background: The pygmy hippo is listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). From the last count in 1994, less than 3,000 individuals remained. This number is now considered to be less due to deforestation and poaching, and it is believed there will be a further decline of 20% in the next 20 years. The Tai National Park, Ivory Coast is believed to be one of the last strongholds.
Camera traps will be used to increase knowledge about these shy animals and the information will be used to create a conservation management plan. This information can also be used to provide better husbandry guidelines and breeding programmes for pygmy hippos kept in zoological institutions. Additional species, habitats and the ecosystem could also directly benefit from this research. The pygmy hippo is a major indicator of the health of the ecosystem and by monitoring them, it will benefit a range of species both directly and indirectly, as we can then understand how the hippos effect or are affected by their ecosystem
Future objectives: A national management programme will be developed over the next 5 years which will help safeguard the existence of the park and its animals, especially the pygmy hippo. At present, conservation of the pygmy hippo is hampered by a basic lack of knowledge of its distribution, population status and ecology.
The project looks to improve education and awareness within the local community about the need to protect and conserve the rainforest and the animals that live within it. By doing this the project hopes to learn more about the number of Pygmy Hippo's that reside in the park, as well as about their biology. They want to decrease hunting by supporting new learning opportunities for the local population who have the potential of becoming the new generation of conservationists. The project wishes to create and use video documentaries and lectures to increase local and national awareness for the pygmy hippo and its habitat.
It is hoped that this research can help us understand the mystery of why pygmy hippos in captivity tend to give birth to more females than males, a phenomenon that poses great problems for efforts to maintain genetic diversity and re-stock the species through captive breeding programs. For scientists to ensure genetic diversity in captive stocks, it is important to work out why genetically valuable females may not be breeding. But to do this, we need better understanding of the natural cycles to make sure that we can do all we can in the captive environment. That is why RZSS is part of this pioneering conservation partnership and is funding primary research that will help the whole zoo community. This will hopefully give this species of hippo a fighting chance in the wild.