A mounted skeleton of a pigmy hippopotamus (choeropsis liberiensis) is set to auction as part of Bonhams' forthcoming Gentleman's Library Sale, which is scheduled for January 30.
The fascinating skeleton carries a £10,000-15,000 ($16,000-24,000) estimate ahead of the highly anticipated London auction, which will also figure a host of other intriguing lots.
A close cousin to the common hippopotamus; pigmy hippos are highly intelligent, herbivorous creatures native to west Africa. Naturally nocturnal and reclusive, they are considerably smaller than the common hippopotamus, with proportionally longer legs as well as less prominent eyes and ears - evolutionary adaptations to a largely aquatic lifestyle.
The pigmy hippo is severely threatened in the wild, where it is thought that there are fewer than 2,000 remaining. They are now extinct in Nigeria, largely due to the destruction and pollution of its natural habitat - swamps, streams and rivers.
Rare, well preserved skeletons have previously proved popular at auction, with a complete mammoth skeleton topping Sotheby's Natural History auction in October 2012, bringing $311,000.
As well as the pigmy hippo skeleton, a 19th century "mermaid skeleton" is also set to cross the auction block on January 30. The piece, which combines mammalian, fish and organic elements, is mounted under a glass dome and carries a £3,000-5,000 ($4,800-8,000) presale estimate.
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