The Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis) is a large mammal native to the forests and swamps of western Africa (the scientific species classification means "of Liberia", as this is where the vast majority lives). The pygmy hippo is reclusive and nocturnal. It is one of only two extant species in the hippopotamidaefamily, the other being its much larger cousin the common hippopotamus.
Pygmy hippos were unknown outside of West Africa until the 19th century. Introduced to zoos in the early 20th century, they breed well in captivity and the vast majority of research is derived from zoo specimens. The survival of the species in captivity is more assured than in the wild; the World Conservation Union estimates that there are less than 3,000 pygmy hippos remaining in the wild. Pygmy hippos are primarily threatened by loss of habitat, as forests are logged and converted to farm land, and are also vulnerable to poaching, hunting, natural predators and war.
After a high-flying international education, van der Byl moved to the colony of Rhodesia to manage family farms. He went into politics in the early 1960s through his involvement with farming trade bodies, and became a government minister responsible for propaganda. One of the leading agitators for the Unilateral Declaration of Independence, van der Byl was afterwards responsible for introducing press censorship. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to persuade international opinion to recognise Rhodesia as a new nation, but was popular among the members of his own party. Promoted to the cabinet in 1968, van der Byl became a spokesman for the Rhodesian government and crafted a public image as a diehard supporter of continued White minority rule. In 1974 he was made Minister of Foreign Affairs and Defence.