Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is the world’s oldest international wildlife conservation organisation. Since 2019, FFI has been working with our NatureMetrics team to carry out eDNA testing in Liberia, expanding its eDNA work internationally since then. The FFI-NatureMetrics partnership was the first to contribute to our eBioAtlas programme – a world-leading project by NatureMetrics and The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to combat the extinction crisis by using cutting-edge DNA technology to collect species data on an unprecedented scale, especially from places lacking it, and create a global database for eDNA-based biodiversity intelligence.
In 2020, FFI heard from local communities that pygmy hippos (Choeropsis liberiensis) might be present in southeast Liberia. The pygmy hippopotamus is not just smaller than its better-known relative; it’s also rarer. Listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List, there are estimated to be fewer than 3,000 mature individuals remaining in the wild. Because they are nocturnal and do not live in herds, they can be very difficult to detect at scale with traditional methods, such as camera traps or looking for dung, footprints and feeding signs.
In contrast, NatureMetrics’ eDNA sampling methods offered FFI the opportunity to gather data on the pygmy hippo quickly and cheaply. From just 20 water samples, our easy-to-use sampling technology helped FFI detect the pygmy hippo in ten sites whilst at the same time creating a far-reaching snapshot of biodiversity in the area that included 165 other species – six of them endangered.
Equipped with this knowledge, FFI can now support local communities to maintain ownership and stewardship of their local environment by making the case for protecting the area and the precious species within it, without having to rely on technical survey teams.
This project is one of several being carried out by FFI with NatureMetrics across Africa to generate data that will contribute to the global biodiversity map of the world’s river systems being created by eBioAtlas.