Sapo National Park is located in the south-central area of Liberia covering 1803 square kilometers. Much of the park is covered in lowland rain forest, marsh, swampy river beds and riverine forests. Some sections of the park are scattered with dry land savannah grasslands.
Regular sights of mammals in the park include forest elephant, Jentink’s and Zebra Duikers and large primate populations, including the Diana monkey, red colobus, black and white Colobus and the western chimpanzee.
Also found within the park are several populations of the endangered pygmy hippopotamus. This particular species is under threat of extinction thanks to increased poaching, habitat destruction and illegal trade in hippo meat and teeth for jewellery. The hippos are a rare sight in the park coming out in the night to feed on wild fruits and tender roots while remains hidden in the swamps for much of the day.
The Sapo people living near the park have strong traditional beliefs about this mammal locally called Nin-gben. It is said in Sapo that if a hunter kills Nin-gben, he must cut off and burry the tail. If not, anyone that the hunter meets while he carries the tail will die, as the tail is believed to be very powerful. Unfortunately this taboo doesn’t prevent pygmy hippos from being hunted.
During the civil war thousands of hunters and gold miners inhabited the park, and although the amount of wildlife killed is unknown, pygmy hippos were said to be targeted by hunters, along with elephants and a variety of duiker and primate species.