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Last Updated: Monday, 10 March 2008, 04:28 GMT
Rare pygmy hippos caught on film
By Mary Harper
BBC News

Photo of pygmy hippo taken in Liberia by Zoological Society of London
Pygmy hippos are one of the most secretive mammal species
Two civil wars, illegal logging and poaching - it was thought this was more than enough to wipe out Liberia's population of pygmy hippos.

But this rare and endangered species has survived against the odds and there are photographs to prove it.

A team led by the Zoological Society of London travelled to the West African country.

It was delighted to discover that, despite their fears, the hippo population had not been wiped out.

Just three days after setting up hidden cameras in the Liberian forest, the team of zoologists were amazed to capture the pygmy hippos on film.

Ben Collen of the London Zoological Society said he remained highly concerned about the survival of the little hippos because they still face the threat of deforestation and bushmeat hunters.

Shrinking world

Pygmy hippos - which look like miniature versions of the common hippopotamus - are one of the most secretive species of mammal on earth, and are rarely seen in the wild.

Less than 3,000 of them remain in their natural habitat, the Upper Guinean forest which covers parts of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

As only 10% of the original forest is left, the pygmy hippos live in a shrinking world.

What is perhaps most amazing is that they survived Liberia's two long and brutal civil wars.

Hungry groups of displaced people, rebels and child soldiers ate anything that came their way - Liberia after the conflict was virtually devoid of animals, domesticated or wild.

Although war is now over in Liberia, the challenge will be to control illegal logging and poaching, which continue to put the pygmy hippo at risk.

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