Wonderful wildlife: Humongous hippos

It is no secret that the Luangwa River is densely populated with these huge herbivores so we thought you ought to know more about the Hippopotamus amphibious. Do not be fooled by their bulging bodies and stumpy legs; hippos are not only excellent swimmers but when on land, they can move up to speeds of 30 km/h! The two-legged species that is man would stand no chance of outrunning a hippo. Moreover, when the water horse does not have an easy route back to water when grazing at night, they often panic which can sometimes cause a hair-raising experience if a human stands in their way.

These colossal beasts are extremely territorial, males defend their mating territory and females both reproduce and give birth while in the water. Therefore, tempers can flare and deadly combats take place in the shallows of the meandering Luangwa River.

Once a calf is born, it’s mother has an uphill battle to protect its newborn. The 45kg calf has a lot to be protected from; crocodiles, lions, hyenas and other hippos. It is not uncommon for dominant males to fend off rogue bulls with calves as their weapon. However, these newborns are also at risk of being accidentally suffocated as space in the water become scarce during the dry season.

As the sun makes it descent below the horizon, hippos all along the Luangwa River and other rivers across Africa make their daily commute to travel inland to graze. They spend the entirety of the night grazing, consuming up to 35 kgs of grass and can travel 6 miles while doing so. Then, once the sun makes its appearance on a new day, these enormous herbivores make their way back to their territory in the river for a day of wallowing.

Hippo quick facts

  • Hippos are mammals.
  • Their average life span is anything from 35-40 years.
  • They can weigh an impressive 4 tons!
  • They need to resurface every 5 minutes to breathe.
  • Hippos secrete an oily red substance which protects them from the sun and keeps them moisturized!

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