A team of scientists from Flora and Fauna International, the Zoological Society of London and the Forestry Development Authority of Liberia captured film footage of a wild pygmy hippo in its natural habitat, the BBC reported recently.
According to the BBC, scientists estimate that as few as 2,000 of the rare, endangered Pygmy hippopotamuses remain in the forested West African ecosystem, but researchers were able to use motion-sensing cameras to unveil more about these difficult-to-study, secretive nocturnal animals as part of ongoing efforts to save them.
Expanding human development of the pygmy hippo's natural forest habitat poses the biggest threat to the species' survival in the wild, according to the team.
The researchers hope the movie project will lead to new discoveries about the elusive animals that will help focus conservation plans underway in Liberia, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone.
According to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park and the Ultimate Ungulate website, pygmy hippopotamuses (Hexaprotodon liberiensis), along with their much larger cousins the Nile or River hippopotamuses, belong to the Hippopotamidae family, and both are closely related to peccaries and pigs.
Though pygmy hippos are more terrestrial than Nile hippos, they are good swimmers with similar muscular valves that close and protect their nostrils and ears when they submerge to feed on aquatic plants, according to the San Diego Zoo.
Update: A reader informed this reporter that she and others had previously filmed wild pygmy hippos in Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone.