We know as hippos the members of the Hippopotamidae family. They are one of the most enigmatic animals in the world. Their amphibian life, between water and land, their plump appearance and their territorial character have made them famous animals all over the world. But, ¿know where do hippos live?
In this AnimalWised article we tell you everything you need to know about distribution and hippo habitat, including the two species that currently exist. In addition, you will discover many curiosities about its evolutionary history, its ecology and its threats. ¡Do not miss it!You may also be interested: Where do dolphins live? Index
- Where did hippos come from?
- Where does the common hypotopamus live?
- Where does the pygmy hippo live?
- Hippos in Colombia
Where did hippos come from?
Hippos (Hippopotamidae) arose in Africa during the Miocene, about 23 million years ago. Around this time, a hoofed mammal, probably an anthracotherid (Anthracotheriidae), gave rise to a group of large semi-aquatic herbivores: the first hippos. At the end of the Miocene an explosion of hippos took place. They became very abundant and diversified, spreading throughout Africa. Already in the Pleistocene, they colonized great part of Europe and Asia, including numerous islands, such as Great Britain1.¿You imagine a world full of hippos?
Today we know that there were at least 5 genres and up to 40 species2. However, most of them became extinct throughout the Quaternary due to climatic changes and massive hunting by humans3.
But, ¿and now? ¿Where do hippos live? Today there are two species of hippos that they live in Africa: the common hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) and the pygmy hypothamus (Chaeropsis liberiensis). Let's see where each of them lives.
Where does the common hypotopamus live?
The common or Nile hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) is the largest living hippo. It measures about 300 cm in length and 150 cm in height, and can reach more than 2,000 kg. It is more elongated and short-legged than the pygmy hippopotamus and its body is covered with short reddish-brown hair..
This species of hippopotamus is also the most abundant. Sand distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal in the west to South Sudan in the east and from Mali in the north to South Africa in the south. In total, it lives in 38 states. Before it extended further north, until it reached Algeria and Egypt, but they disappeared from these countries in the 19th century.
Today, it is estimated that there are between 115,000 and 130,000 individuals. Their populations are stable at the continent level, but are declining in some regions. Thus, is considered a vulnerable species. Its main threats are illegal hunting, climate change and, above all, the loss or degradation of its habitat. In addition, the disappearance of their habitat and their territorial character causes constant conflicts with human beings..
If you want to know more, we recommend this other article on Why do hippos attack.
Habitat of the common hippo
Although they are distributed in half of Africa, the places where the common hippos live are very particular. As its scientific name indicates (H. amphibius), the common hippo is an amphibian animal. Always lives in aquatic habitats such as rivers, lakes, and wetlands. During the dry season, it is usually found in muddy swamps.
This animal proast most of the day in the water and only comes out at night to feed. This is because your skin is very sensitive and needs to always be moist. However, they have a mechanism to defend themselves against drought: their skin secretes a red liquid that works as a sunscreen and an antibiotic. Therefore, these hippos only come out of the water to eat. As we told in the article on What do hippos eat, they are herbivorous animals and they feed mainly on terrestrial herbs. In order not to move much, they always live close of big grasslands open. There, they form herds of 10 to several hundred individuals.
As you may have imagined, the habitat of the common hippo is very lively. They live with a large number of animals, such as elephants, zebras and wildebeest, who drink in the same waters. To maintain this wealth, hippos are a fundamental piece. Their feces provide nutrients to the water and are an exquisite delicacy for lions and crocodiles.
Where does the pygmy hippo live?
The pygmy hippo (Choeropsis liberiensis) is much smaller than the common hippo. Weight between 160 and 270 kg. It is also shorter and leggy, at 150-175 cm in length and 75-100 cm in height. Their feet are more adapted to terrestrial life and their body is not covered with hair..
Y, ¿where do pygmy hippos live? They live in the low forests of West Africa, where there are two subspecies:
- C. liberiensis liberiensis: lives in Ivory Coast, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
- C. liberiensis heslopi: lives in Nigeria. However, it is believed that it could be extinct, since the last one was sighted in 1943.
Before, the distribution of this species was much greater, but its populations have been disappearing. It is a seriously threatened animal and is considered andn danger of extinction. Today, there are a few 2000-2500 individuals and they continue to decline. It is due, above all, to the destruction of forests to build settlements or to cultivate, but also to hunting and the instability of the countries in which they live.
Pygmy hippo habitat
The pygmy hippo lives in dense low-lying evergreen forests. It can also inhabit gallery forests close to the savannah. It is more terrestrial than the common hippo, although it tends to spend the day in or near water, especially in swamps and streams. There, it hides in the cavities that the passage of water forms on the banks.
Pygmies are also less nocturnal than common hippos. They can stay out of the water during the day, though they usually go out at night to feed. To do this, they quietly enter the forest and follow paths and tunnels through the vegetation. They are experts in camouflaging themselves to avoid their predators.
Y, ¿what do they eat? Pygmy hippos are also herbivorous animals, although more generalists. They feed on herbs and browse, that is, they consume the juicy leaves, roots, fruits and stems of shrubs. As good forest animals, they are more solitary than the common hippo. They usually live alone or in pairs.
But they are not alone. The place where pygmy hippos live is home to a large number of species, such as chimpanzees, African elephants, and gnats. This biodiversity is contributed by pygmy hippos. Are one of the dams favorites of large carnivores, like crocodiles or leopards; and they are very good at fertilizing, as they spread their feces by wagging their tails to mark their territory.
Hippos in Colombia
If you live in Colombia, you will know that there are hippos in your country. They are an introduced species and they shouldn't be there. His presence is due to the whims of the most famous narco in history, Pablo Escobar, who collected large animals in his private zoo.
Today, it is estimated that there are between 80 and 120 hippos In colombia. The weather conditions in this country are very good for them, so they are expanding along the main waterways. Although it may seem like a good thing, it is a serious ecological problem.
Pablo Escobar's hippos have become an invasive species, putting at risk the native species, like the manatee and many species of plants. For this reason, it is currently debated whether to sterilize them, transport them or even kill them. However, a large part of the local population is against it and believes that they could attract tourism, improving the economy of the area4. ¿What do you think?