Saidu, J. B., Adewumi, A. A., Lameed, G. A. and Udo, A. J.
The pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis) is smaller than the common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), weighing 180–270 kg and standing 70–80 cm tall at the shoulders. It is less aquatic than the common hippo and retains some terrestrial locomotion patterns. The populations of the C. liberiensis are faced with severe hunting pressure and increased habitat fragmentation; sequel to these, the species is listed as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Thus, it demands very high conservation attention. A study on C. liberiensis food preferences will help increase the prospects of safeguarding these endemic and highly threatened species in West Africa. However, there is a paucity of information on the food preference of Choeropsis liberiensis. Therefore, this study aimed to assess food items consumed by C. liberiensis, as well as the availability of these food items at Tiwai Island edge communities in South-Eastern Sierra Leone. Seven communities: Mapoma, Segbema, Geima, Kabama, Jenneh, Nyanahun, and Booma, on both sides of the island were purposively sampled based on the study’s objectives. The data were collected using a structured questionnaire, oral interview, and reconnaissance surveys. The data were summarized using descriptive statistics, and a one-way ANOVA was used to determine the differences in the two seasons at P < 0.01. Ten plant species (Ipomoe maalba, Ipomoea batatas, Theobroma cacao, Pteriduim aquilinum, Cucurbita pepo, Urena sp., Digitaria eriantha, Hibiscus esculentus, Corchorus olitoruis and Geophila obvallata) were consumed by the animal species. The plants eaten by Hippos are mostly herbaceous plants reliant on either anthropogenic or natural breaks in the forest canopy, except for cacao plants. Most of the wild plants mentioned as being consumed are available all year. Krain-karin, sweet potato, and okra are grown in gardens all year. Hippos eat mostly slimy plants. Most species have gone extinct, which is attributed to several anthropogenic factors. Therefore, conservation education programmes focusing on C. liberiensis and other notable wildlife species should be executed in communities surrounding Tiwai Island to protect these animal species.
Keywords: Choeropsis liberiensis, Food preference, Tiwai Island, Wildlife conservation.