I was very surprised by the number of hippopotamus we saw on our visit to South Africa. I expected to see some but their numbers really surprised me. As we travelled and spoke with guides/rangers we learned that despite what we saw this year has been devastating for the hippo population. Drought has dried up rivers and significantly impacted the amount of grass available for foraging. Typical hippo behavior is to spend the daytime hours in the water and forage at night. They also spend time on the shore sunbathing in the warm sun. Drought has forced them to travel further distances to find food and, in some cases, they just aren’t finding enough.
With water in short supply, maintaining a place to drink and soak during the day is important. In the game lodges, as well as in Kruger, we saw many man made water holes filled by pumping groundwater. Many were filled with pumps driven by windmills. These water holes are a win-win. They provide water for animals and a place for tourists to visit and watch them. Part of me rails against such an unnatural arrangement, but in the end, I am alright with it. It’s part of the vicious cycle: tourists come to see animals in the wild, animals need habitat and protection, habitat and protection costs money, tourists bring money.
There is an older hippo who claims the water hole at Elephant Plains Game Lodge as his own. While were there, the hippo returned from foraging to find another male had moved in. A fight ensued. Hippo fights are noisy affairs accompanied by wide stretched jaws and attacks with sharp teeth. They fight until one backs down or is killed.
One of the iconic pictures of hippos and rhinos shows them with the oxpecker bird on their backs. The relationship is symbiotic but benefits the bird more than the hippo or rhino. The oxpecker eats ticks on the beast but also eats fly larvae that grow in the wounds incurred by these animals.
I hope you enjoy these hippo images. Please look closely at the battle pictures. These beasts can be very scary and aggressive.
Note: The images can be seen in larger size by clicking on the image or by visiting the Hippos Gallery on my website: https://larryklink.smugmug.com/South-African-Adventure-2016/Hippos/