North-central Africa (i.e. Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Chad) once held important populations of large mammals, including the hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius. Exports of hippopotamus trophies from Cameroon were suspended in 2012 but the species’ status and population trends remain poorly known. Using the same methodology as in 2000 and 2008, we counted hippopotamuses in Faro National Park and bordering hunting zones in 2014. We counted 685 individuals along 97 km of river, compared with 647 and 525 in 2000 and 2008, respectively. The stability of this population contrasts with the declines in populations of large mammals across north-central Africa. We attribute this conservation success to private efforts (i.e. safari hunting) compensating for a decline in state protection. However, the situation remains fragile, as highlighted by an influx of transhumant cattle and gold diggers. We recommend increasing public–private conservation efforts, including incentives for the safari hunting industry, which is also under pressure.