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Hippopotamus: A wonder animal
Publish Date: Jul 16, 2014
Hippopotamus: A wonder animal
Male hippos fighting for dominance. PHOTO/ Andrew Masinde
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By Andrew Masinde                        

A trip to the National Parks left me amazed at how animals behave. It's all out there, you only need to pay attention to details or else you may miss a spectacular wildlife experience.

While taking a boat ride at the Kazinga Channel trails, you see different animals.One of which is the hippopotamus.

The animal is said to be the most dangerous wild mammals in Africa. Based on human fatalities this 'reputation' is probably well deserved.

According to Birra Patronella, interpretive guide at Queen Elizabeth National Park, unlike most land animals that usually have many escape options; this animal has a relatively small area to escape to and that is water.

If they get frightened on land they run back to water.

“On land a hippopotamus can reach a top speed of 40 kilometres per hour and they are surprisingly quick. To get between this animal and water is to risk being trampled upon as it tries to get to safety. Yawning is a dominance signal and a clear signal for intruders to stay away,” she explains.

She added that they have a unique shape and size with adults weighing around 1500 kg. They are the third-largest living land mammal in Africa, after elephants and white rhinos.

The plump and bulky body is set on short, stumpy legs.

Justus Tusuubira, conservation area manager Lake Mburo National Park says hippos prefer water with gently sloping banks. When viewing these African animals in water, you will see only the tops, heads and backs.

“During the day they are submerged in water, which must be at least 1-5 meters deep. They can submerge under water for up to six minutes,” he said.

Hippos leave in harmony with buffalos.PHOTO/ Andrew Masinde

He said that they suffer from sunburn, which cracks their skin. They also wallow in mud holes when there is no water available.

As you enjoy watching them sunbathe, the calves indulge in play-fights and pushing contests.

The basic unit of hippopotamus society is a group of up to 30, comprising of females with their calves.

They are lorded over by a single dominant bull that has gained his position by being successful in combat against other males.


An egret flying to pick a tick from a Hippo . PHOTO/ Andrew Masinde

This gives the bull exclusive access to the females in his group.

The groups are territorial, each occupying a stretch of river or lake. The herd bull is extremely aggressive to challengers. He marks his territory, by splattering dung onto rocks and bushes.
Hippos are versatile in communication.

They can make sounds like a horse neighing, which might be one reason for their name.

Hippopotamus means "river horse". They also communicate by grunting, bellowing, and, of all things, mooing. A mooing sound is typically that of a female hippo looking for a mate.


 Male hippos fighting for dominance
. PHOTO/ Andrew Masinde

 

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