The Africa Adventure Company



Scientific Name : Hippopotamus amphibius

The hippo once occupied almost every river system in Africa, from the southern Cape wetlands to the Nile Delta in Egypt, but due to hunting pressure it is now largely restricted to protected areas south of the Sahara. Hippos require deep water in which to submerge their bulky bodes and a supply of short grass on which to feed. Their skin lacks sweat glands, so hippo are prone to dehydration and they spend most of the day in water or mud, although they may bask in the sun for short periods. Hippos are extremely vocal when in water (but silent on land), as individuals grunt, honk and blow air from their nostrils. Calling seems to be contagious, and noisy bouts of honking and wheezing are made in response to disturbances, or when returning to the water after a night of feeding. At sunset, hippo leave their aquatic refuge and wander down well-trod pathways to favoured feeding grounds. Flat areas colonised by creeping grasses are favoured, and a resident population maintains a lawn-like landscape. Individuals consume up to 130 lbs of grass per night. Hippos live in a hierarchical society in which individuals constantly display their status to one another. Adult females with their successive offspring form the foundation of social units called pods, and occupy a home range on a stretch of river, or lake. Mature males hold dominance in a restricted range but fierce and bloody clashes between rivals are commonplace. Hippo pods tend to be sedentary during the dry season but move far and wide when rain fills seasonal waterbodies. Baby hippo are born in shallow water but are able to swim immediately and suckle while completely submerged. Youngsters are playful for the first year of life and weaned at around eight months.