Friday, October 25

Rafts, Pods and Thunders * of Hippopotami

* all collective names for hippo

The call of the common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) is one of those unique African sounds that reverberates through my whole being. The local languages have lovely onomatopoeic names for the hippo - Luvuvhu and Mvuvhu being some of the best ones.

The hippo is high on the list of animals to see for many visitors to Africa, and misconceptions about the hippo abound.

Let me put you straight:-

It is NOT cute or cuddly, but is fierce, aggressive and dangerous

It is NOT slow or passive, but can outrun a human over short distances

It does NOT swim, but runs along the bottom of rivers and lakes

It does NOT hunt or eat meat or fish, but grazes grass on shore and pulls aquatic vegetation to the surface to chew on.

It is known in many quarters as the most dangerous mammal in Africa. It kills more people than any of the other large mammals including lion, elephant or buffalo.

scary eyes when you are in a canoe!
It's aggressive nature is probably caused or aggravated by it's relatively small “home space”.

Never get between a hippo and it's hippo “pool”.

I've done several canoeing trips on the Zambezi River and avoiding hippo, by all means, is a major focus every day. However, on safari in Kruger we are usually observing hippo from a safe distance and from a vehicle.

Here in South Africa, we only find hippo in a few places, mostly within the northern and eastern conservation areas. This is mainly because we are a semi-arid country and don't have a lot of suitable hippo habitat around.

So in general, finding and observing hippo is pleasurably exciting, rather than terrifyingly nerve-racking.

Here are a few of my favourite hippo photos, taken over the last 6 years........

Hippos and their calves

This jaw-to-jaw sparring session got quite serious. 


Close to their "homes" hippo can get aggressive with any animal close to their size, as with this youngster first "yawning" at these Cape Buffalo, and then chasing them off!

But with the smaller animals, like these terrapin and African Jacana the hippo don't stir a whisker!

Most of the time hippo spend the day sleeping submerged in the water having spent each night grazing on shore. So we don't often get great views of hippo......

Occasionally we are very lucky and they come very close to my favourite Kruger "hide" - that's where many of these photos come from.

And as a last thought, I think there is a new collective name we could apply to hippo, specifically when they are sleeping out on the beach - a heap of hippo - very applicable, don't you think?


Diana said...

Loved the terrapins, Sue!

Gavin said...

Beautiful and instructive as always.

You deliberately mention most dangerous 'large mammal'; I presume that when other classes like reptiles are included, the crocodile is rated as even more dangerous.

Gaelyn said...

It's not easy to get photos of the hippos that look like more than bumps in the water. So rarely see them on shore. Maybe I'll get lucky on this next visit. But not in a canoe thank you.

Terry Donachie said...

Reminds me of the two "Turtles" you taught how to scuba dive all those years ago - Penny & me!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sue .. heap of hippo is good - spray of hippo wouldn't be far off the mark either ...

... the are impressive beasts - I saw lots up in Botswana the few times I visited ..

Cheers Hilary