Pygmy Hippopotamus

Pygmy Hippopotamus

Choeropsis liberiensis var. Hexaprotodon liberiensis

The Pygmy Hippo is very elusive. With the use of camera traps, it has been confirmed that the species still survives, despite extensive loss of habitat.

IUCN Red List status: Endangered [1] (updated on 03.02.11)

CITES: Appendix II [2](updated on 03.02.11)

Liberian Status: None [3]

Geographical Range: The species is thought to occur in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire.

Habitat and Ecology: The Pygmy Hippopotamus is solitary by nature and very elusive [4]. The species is semi-aquatic [4] and spends much of its time resting in swamps or rivers [5].

Threats: The species is considered to be in decline [4] and its distribution severely fragmented throughout its range [5]. With the use of camera traps, it has been confirmed that the pygmy hippotamus still survives [6]. The main threats to the species include logging, habitat loss, hunting, human settlement and political instability [4,5].The species is now listed as an Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species under the EDGE of Existence programme.


[1] IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. <>. Downloaded on 28 February 2011.

[2] UNEP-WCMC. 27th February, 2011. UNEP-WCMC Species Database: CITES-Listed Species.

[3] The Government of Liberia’s Forest Development Authority. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed on: 01.02.11]

[4] Fauna & Flora website. Website address: <> [Accessed on: 27.02.11].

[5] Edge of Existence Programme. Zoological Society of London. Website address: <> [Accessed on: 27.02.11] [6] Zoological Society of London. Website address: <,437,NS.html> [Accessed on: 27.01.11].

Carel Jongkind

Carel Jongkind

Carel C.H. Jongkind has been actively researching the plants of West and Central tropical Africa for more than 20 years, with a particular focus on the lianas or woody climbers.

At the moment the forests of Liberia, a biodiversity hotspot area within Upper Guinea, is the priority target of his research. In the last few years he joined or organized several expeditions to the Liberian forest, collecting botanical information and training Liberian botanists.

Lex Voorhoeve

Lex Voorhoeve

Voorhoeve has studied the plants of Liberia for over 50 years, joining the staff of the then College of Forestry of the University of Liberia in 1960 to teach botany.

The same year he also served as the tree expert for a German Forestry Mission to Liberia. Voorhoeve had the good luck to meet a local Gio man, David Kwewon, who had an unparalleled knowledge of the forest, its composition and uses. Kwewon joined the German Liberian inventory crew as tree spotter; later he joined the staff of the College of Forestry as Keeper of the Arboretum. Voorhoeve and Kwewon combined forces to collect the information that ultimately resulted in the 1965 publication “Liberian high forest trees”.
After a rich and varied career Voorhoeve decided, in 2005, to re-edit his 1965 book, trying to make it more user friendly and extending the number of species. The result of this endeavour is the “Tree Atlas of Liberia and surrounding regions”, a combined effort with Dr. Carel Jongkind and Fauna & Flora International.

Click here to watch a short video of the botanist, Dr. Lex Voorhoeve, explain the origins of the interactive Liberian Tree Atlas

David Kwewon

David Kwewon

David Kwewon was born in Zuole, Gio County, Liberia. He possessed an amazing knowledge of the forest and was a major contributor to both Kunkels ‘The Trees of Liberia’ and Voorhoeves ‘Liberian High Forest Trees’.

For many years David worked for the University of Liberia as keeper of the arboretum. He accompanied many botanists on field trips as recently as 2009. Many students were familiarized with the trees of the Liberian forests by David.

A Short Interview with Mr Kwewon

Interview by David Mulbah on the 9th February 2011

Question: When and where were you born?
“I was born on September 15th, 1931, in Nimba County, Liberia.”

Question: How did you learn your incredible knowledge of the trees in Liberia?
“The knowledge came mainly from my late father, who was a great hunter and farmer. As a hunter, he knew the local names of so many plants. He used trees and other plants to find his way in and out of the forest. While hunting, he would follow animal footprints deep into the forest and could not easily find his way back. In these situations, he would find his way back by remembering the trees that he had passed. I usually accompanied him in the forest, during which time he showed me the local names of the trees he knew. He also taught me the names of trees during the farming periods, especially when we were brushing and cutting down trees. I became interested. Later on, in 1954, a team of German botanist came to Liberia to start forestry. This work began in Nimba forest. The team taught us how to cut blocks and to use a compass. During this time, I learned the names of many trees. In the early 1960s I assisted Dr. Voorhoeve on his botanical expeditions. I taught him the local names of many Liberian tree species and in return, I learned some of their scientific names. I helped him produce his first book on the Liberian tree species ‘The Liberian High Forest Trees’. I assisted Dr. Jongkind when he came to Liberia for his first botanical expedition. I am also an assistant to Professor Blyden, with whom I have worked on almost all of her botanical fieldwork. I also learned many things from her. I was placed in charge of the Arboretum and the Harry Harberium, before they were destroyed in the civil war. Initially, I learnt my tree knowledge through practical field experience, starting with my father. I did not go to school because I didn’t have the time – I always found myself in the fields.”

Question: What other work have you done in the past?
“Well, as a botanist, I also worked in agriculture and agroforestry, like my father. I advised farmers on the practice of intercropping and established and managed a tree nursery. I also used to have a taxi that I ran at times. Additionally, I served as one of the elders for my village. As elders, we were charged with the responsibility of settling disputes in our communities.”

Question: Is it true that you were/are a member of a snake society? If true, what did that mean for you? what role did you play?
“(laugh) As a local botanist, I know some traditional medicines, especially for snakebite. There was a group of us using traditional herbal techniques to save the lives of people who had been bitten by snakes. For me it was a good thing as we saved lives in the absence of a hospital. Our medicines really worked. Many people’s lives were saved and I am happy for that.”

Question: What work have you done in the past and what work are you currently doing, for the University of Liberia?
“Previously I worked as a field assistance to botanists. I became the caretaker of the herbarium. I also worked as the University’s local tree specialist. Today, I still work in a similar capacity, but, as you can see, I am less strong than used to be – I can’t walk long distances in the field anymore. I am currently working as Professor Blyden’s assistant. I have assisted her in identifying plants and in wood biology. I have learned how to use a hands lens, microscope and other modern equipment in the identification of plants. I assist her with some of her classes too.”

Question: What special memories do you have in your long career as a tree-expert?
“Well, I love trees and all memories of trees are special to me. I consider the forest as my life. I have enjoyed all the time that I have spent in the forest, starting with the times I was with my late father. In 2004 Carel Jongkind took me to Sapo National Park. During that expedition we discovered six plant species that proved to be new recordings. He promised that one of the species would be named after me and that promise was fulfilled. That made me happy and I consider that as a special memory.”

Philip Robinson

Philip Robinson

Philip Robinson has been working to monitor and protect the wildlife of Liberia for the past 44 years, including playing an instrumental role in the establishment of Sapo, Liberias only national park, which was created in 1983.

Philip Robinson conducted a survey on the pygmy hippopotamus for the World Wildlife Fund in Liberia and Sierra Leone in 1968. He was later involved in the feasibility studies for the establishment of Sapo National Park, under the sponsorship of the National Geographic Society. During the Liberian civil war he was the editor of the Pepperbird newsletter for the temporary Society for the Renewal of Nature Conservation in Liberia, based in San Diego, California. In 1998 Dr. Robinson led a field survey of the Cestos and Senkwehn riversheds in eastern Liberia, following wartime logging incursions in the region. He is the co-editor, with Henk Dop of Amsterdam, of the annotated translation of Johann Büttikofer’s 1890 two-volume work Reisebilder aus Liberia (Travel Sketches from Liberia) which was published in the fall of 2012.

Aminata Bundu

Aminata Bundu

Aminata’s interests include environmental education, community rainforest conservation, mitigation of human-wildlife conflict, conservation policy and animal welfare. She is currently working in Sierra Leone with Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Sierra Leone Animal Welfare Society (SLAWS).

Aminata Bundu recently completed a four week internship with the Africa Programme at FFI, focussing on supporting the development of this website, with particular emphasis on the creation of a database for an interactive online bibliography and the development of the Liberian Plant Identifier tool.

Aminata is a budding Conservationist who has a BSc (Hons) in Zoology from Royal Holloway, University of London and wishes to pursue a Masters in Environmental Management. Prior to her internship at FFI, she worked as the Social Media Manager and Marketing & Sales Assistant for What on Earth Publishing, as well as an Events Assistant at The Gorilla Organization. Aminata is also a Learning Volunteer at London Zoo.