Conservation and Wild Facts about Hippos
In some ways, the hippopotamus is similar to a shy tortoise, living in its own world although for the former, that is mostly in the fresh-waters in which it plunges.
Hippos have been known to submerge in water for five to twelve minutes breathing. Another fact about this humble aquatic giant is that they move to shallow waters when temperatures hit highs of 18 degrees Celsius plus.
While on the water banks, these mammals do excrete a natural lubricant to hold off the apparent danger from the sun. This natural sunscreen, red in colour, looks like oozing blood from afar.
For a long time, it was mistaken for a mixture of blood and sweat, earning it the nickname “blood sweat.” This fluid is a combination of hipposudoric acid and norhipposudoric acid both of which create a sunscreen effect by absorbing ultra violet rays from the sun and prevent the growth of disease causing bacteria.
The hippopotamus can be seen on a safari to eastern, central and southern sub-Saharan Africa, and this mammal is one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae.
Interestingly, its name is Greek for “river horse”. After the elephant and rhinoceros, the hippopotamus is the third-largest land mammal. It boasts of being the heaviest existing land and even-toed mammal.
This herbivore’s love for freshwater disproves its shy trait and is more, a show of dominance. For every herd, there is an alpha male hippo. Every evening, this male leaves the waters to graze, returning only upon hearing wheezing and honking from the rest of the school.
The school normally leaves the water at dusk. Hippos are mostly nocturnal spending the better part of their day in a deep slumber. Schools have been known to mark their territory afraid that if they left their waters unattended to, another school of hippos or animals might invade and capture their territory. This leaving in shifts is a similar trait just as bats do, which are also known to make scheduled flights out of their habitation caves.
Hippos feed mostly on grass, shoots and leaves and their incisor and canine teeth, often referred to as tusks come in handy. The tusks found in the lower jaw, weigh up to four kilograms each.
With the hippo able to stretch its mouth open to 150 degrees, one is able to observe the 50 cm and 40 cm long canines and incisors simultaneously. The hippopotamus yawn is more than just a sign of discomfort. In fact it is used to fight off predators.
Despite its calm and collected character, the hippo can be equally dangerous once disturbed. This even toed mammal has been known to clock a record speed of 30kmph on ground.
With the world’s fastest man at current, Usain Bolt averaging 23.35 mph, it is unsafe to have a hippo on a human’s trail. Game rangers, however, advise that while running away from a hippo, one should sprint in a zigzag format, as most wild animals are not known to take abrupt sharp turns with ease.
Rangers also caution against taking hippos on via short distances because they can easily catch up with humans. Their lethal attributes are well documented. The African Wildlife Foundation reports annual losses of 3000 people killed by hippos every year.
Hippos are, however, under threat from disease and predators. In 2010, 83 hippopotamuses were registered dead in Uganda’s uganda cultural safaris from anthrax along the Kazinga channel. That said, humans are also a predator, hunting it down for its valued fatty meat considered a delicacy in most park communities.
Poachers also love its tusk-like canine known to contain ivory, a much sought after treasure in the same league as rhinoceros and elephant horns and tusks, respectively.
With the demand for decorative art and jewelry and the market price for rhino horns having surpassed the price of gold, the worry is decreasing rhino populations may affect hippos once poachers target hippo tusks aggressively. Backing on the fact that Uganda is one of the main transit countries of the illicit trade.
Rhinos in Uganda were almost hunted into extinction in the 1970s, and now only existing in sanctuaries. Many safaris to Uganda have a bid focus on these large mammals much as gorilla safaris are still the lead. Join us for one of the best Uganda safaris led by keen and expert naturalists the region had to offer