Even as Earth’s third weightiest land mammal, surpassed in bulk only by the elephant and white rhino, hippos are a fragile group. Among the items for sale at a 2019 trophy hunting convention in Nevada: a hippo skull table, boxes of hippo teeth, and belts and boots made of hippo hides. Trophy hunting, poaching and habitat loss are driving this unique and ancient species to the brink of extinction.
Of the two remaining hippo species in the world, the pygmy hippo (who inhabits the forests and wetlands of West Africa) is endangered while the common hippopotamus (found mainly in sub-Saharan grasslands) is listed as vulnerable.
While hippos find their primary food source (grass) on land, they spend most of their time wallowing in shallow waters to stay cool and protect their nearly hairless skin. Just like humans, hippos are susceptible to sunburn, but their skin secretes a crimson-colored substance (once referred to as “blood sweat”) that act as a sunscreen and an antibiotic.