March 1, 2023Ecosystems, Rhinos, Wildlife
A Life Along the Water
They are big, chubby and prefer to spend the day having a bath. But they are also quick-tempered and aggressive, which is why they are one of the most dangerous mammals in Africa. Hippos are actually very territorial and defend their home from any intruder. Repeatedly hunted down by the ivory trade, and often suffering greatly due to human-animal conflict, the hippopotamus population is now considered endangered.
By Stefanie Rach
In waters south of the Sahara, you can see several pairs of eyes, ears and nostrils peering out. At first you might think these eyes belong to crocodiles. But as you approach the waterside, the owners of the eyes show up, gushing water and opening their mouths wide: hippos.
They are usually found in a group, the so-called pool. The pool is headed by the dominant male. He defends the group and his territory. And he is also the only male allowed to mate with the females, his harem.
On hot days, hippos prefer to stay in the cooling water. However, to make sure they don’t miss anything that is happening above the water’s surface, their eyes peep out vigilantly. Hippos have very sensitive skin that they need to protect from the sun’s rays. Therefore, they rarely leave the water during the day and come ashore at night to graze. For despite their huge teeth, hippos are herbivores. They need their teeth to fight. And they fight for supremacy in the group and the territory.
In waters south of the Sahara, you can see several pairs of eyes, ears and nostrils peering out. At first you might think these eyes belong to crocodiles. But as you approach the waterside, the owners of the eyes show up, gushing water and opening their mouths wide: hippos.The territory is marked: Male hippos usually do their business on the bank, wagging their tails so that the faeces splash around and spread everywhere. If a hippo thinks that a supposed intruder is coming too close, it gives warning: it emerges gushing water and opening its mouth wide to show its long teeth.
In many tribes in southern Africa, however, a different story is told about this special behaviour of the hippos. After the Creator had given all animals their home, the hippos were quite unhappy about having to live on land. They were drawn to the water. So they asked the Creator to allow them to live in the rivers and lakes. He hesitated at first – after all, there was already a predator in the waters, the crocodile. But the hippos asked so earnestly that the Creator granted them their request on the condition that they should not eat fish. The hippos agreed and moved into the refreshing water. To show the Creator that they are abiding by his conditions, they open their mouths wide every day so that he can see that there are no bones between their teeth, and splash their droppings to prove that there is only grass in them.
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