The majestic hippo

Hippopotamus amphibious is one of the most remarkable animals in Africa.

The hippo is an aquatic mammal and thrives in the rivers and dams in Africa. They do everything in the water except eat and breathe and are extremely territorial, especially the males because they compete for the best dams and spaces in the rivers. Unfortunately, humans are repopulating the natural habitats of these big animals that they are battling to keep their natural habitats.

Hippos can hold their breath for up to six minutes under the water. They also cannot swim; they walk at the bottom of the dam or river and just resurface to breathe and they are also one of the few animals that have buoyancy control. In other words, they can move their diaphragm up and down in order to distinguish which body part they want to expose.

Due to their anatomy and their way of life, surprisingly, the closest relative to this majestic creature is the whale. I hope that these interesting facts will bring people to ask more questions about the Hippopotamus.

Pieter – Kapama River Lodge
21/08/2012



One Response to “The majestic hippo”

  1. Laurie Watermeyer says:

    Pieter,

    Thank you for your brief description of hippos. At last I have found someone who shares my conviction that hippos have an active method of controlling their buoyancy. I am frequently canoeing on the Zambezi and come across hundreds of hippos each trip. My observation is that hippos can make an emergency decent by a combination of expelling air through their nostrils and some compression method to reduce the volume of air in their lungs. These same hippos can return to the surface slowly, indicating that they have not propelled themselves from the bottom. Their legs are obviously not suitable as swimming appendages. You mention diaphragm movement in your note. How does this work? I had expected that there was some method of closing a sphincter in their throat air passage combined with a muscular ability to collapse their rib cages. Their ability to run on the bottom has been photographed at places with clear water (Murchison Falls?) and certainly I have personally experienced hippos running very fast (over 10 km per hour) causing a major bow wave on the surface, sometimes alarmingly incoming rather than moving away! My estimate is that hippos would not have enough purchase of the sandy bottom unless they were at least 20% negatively buoyant at the time.

    You may be interested to know that of the over 100 canoe trips that my brother and I have done on the Zambezi since 1983, we have only once actually had a hippo bite one of our canoes, and fortunately this was without injury to the lady seated just inches away from the bite site.

    I would be very pleased to learn more about this subject so please advise me if you have more knowledge or can point me to some relevant research

    Laurie Watermeyer, Harare, Zimbabwe

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