Diergaarde Blijdorp (Blijdorp Zoo) is collaborating on a research initiative led by the IBREAM Foundation, using detection dogs to search for the endangered pygmy hippopotamus. Found in the dense forests of West Africa, exact population figures of the species remain elusive due to limited sightings. Detection dogs like Boyd, trained in part at Blijdorp, aim to remedy this.
The pygmy hippopotamus resides in West Africa's dense forests and faces serious threats to its survival. Previous studies suggest that the largest population can be found in the Taï National Park, Ivory Coast. Their presence is also recorded in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Current rough estimates suggest just over 1000 of these animals remain in the wild. With a pivotal role in their ecosystem, these creatures disperse seeds essential for various plants and trees, which in turn support endangered monkey species. Without intervention, this species faces extinction.
The elusive nature of the pygmy hippopotamus, coupled with the dense rainforest habitat, makes research challenging. Detection dog Boyd underwent training in Blijdorp Zoo, where keepers provided scent samples from the hippopotamus. Under the guidance of Wesley Visscher, CEO of Scent Imprint Conservation Dogs, Boyd honed his skills.
Boyd and the IBREAM team then ventured to the Ivory Coast to employ their techniques in the wild. Shortly after arriving, Boyd detected hippo scents along the Hana River. Local rangers then furthered the search on land for footprints and droppings. Boyd's expertise proved invaluable when he discovered fresher traces of the animals. Camera traps placed in these areas soon captured images of the pygmy hippos. This breakthrough facilitates easier data collection on population numbers and gender ratios, critical for the species' conservation.
Blijdorp Zoo anticipates a long-term partnership with IBREAM, proudly contributing to this conservation research. While providing financial support, the zoo also plans to continue its in-house research on the pygmy hippopotamus.
IBREAM, the Institute for Breeding Rare and Endangered African Mammals, is committed to the conservation of threatened African mammals. Their approach integrates applied and fundamental research on reproductive biology (both in the wild and zoos), conservation initiatives, and education.