Let’s be honest, real-life hippos look quite ridiculous with their huge faces and swollen bellies supported by four stubby short legs. But let’s not judge the book by its cover!
Most people do not realise how dangerous these animals can be. Guests could see a hippo yawning repeatedly and assume the animal is lazy, sleepy and quite content, but the trained eye of a ranger will recognise these as threatening signs. Hippos can inflict serious wounds as often seen on the bodies of males who have competed in territorial fights.
Fact: hippos live in the water but, they can’t swim at all! They can hold their breath for five minutes; buoyancy helping them to do this, weight being reduced due to buoyancy lessens the load, and thus less energy is needed to move around. Less working muscles means less oxygen required!
Since they don’t have any sweat glands, staying in water helps them cool down. Hippos have mucous glands which act as hippo sun protection – its chemical composition has intrigued biochemists who have uncovered its dual role as both sunscreen and antimicrobial. Furthermore, they have excellent insulation with multiple layers of fat 12cm thick that keeps them warm during the winter days, allowing them to be completely submerged even on cold windy days.
They graze for food at night and can be seen feeding up to 1.8km away from their watering hole, but during winter when the food source around their territory has been depleted they will be forced to venture even further away.