Humans that don’t know to recognize the yawn as a warning, often find themselves trying to flee a seriously dangerous situation desperately. It is estimated that hippos kill approximately 500 people each year in Africa.
Compare that to a tiger or a lion that only has a force of 1,000 pounds per square inch in their bite. And if you are wondering, humans only have a bite force of approximately 200 pounds per square inch.
Occasionally, there have been news articles published about sightings of hippos and crocodiles playing together. Fully-grown hippos are extremely strong and far too powerful for a single crocodile to consider attacking.
Hippos tend to hang out in the water during the day, then make their way to land in the evenings. And though hippos can’t actually swim, they can stand in the shallow water with just their ears and snouts above the water-line.
For humans that don’t know what to look for, it can make it easy to entirely overlook a heard of hippos just below the water’s surface. Humans often don’t realize that they are nearing hippos that can easily hide and remain mostly undetected underneath the surface of the water.
Also, unsuspecting humans often don’t realize that these large and heavy creatures are far more stealth and agile than one would think. Hippo mothers tend to be very protective of their young, and as approximately only one in ten males ever mate, male hippos become aggressive when seeking the opportunity to mate with a nearby female.
Most safari and dangerous animal experts feel that hippos are aggressive as a natural reaction to threats. Over time, hippos have developed a very defensive response to invaders that have made their way into their territory.
And since hippos tend to congregate and spend time only with others in their species, any non-hippo visitor can quickly find itself in harm’s way. Your tax-deductible gift will care for wildlife at the Zoo and Safari Park and provide a sustainable lifeline for endangered species worldwide.
CLASS: Mammalian (Mammals) ORDER: Artiodactyla FAMILY: Hippopotamidae GENUS: Hippopotamus SPECIES: amphibious Watch a hippo, on land or in the water, and you’ll soon discover that this roly-poly is one of the animal world’s great characters.
It is the most rotund land mammal and spends its daytime hours in lakes, pools, mudholes, or in the preferred moving waters of rivers. The blood sweat creates a layer of mucous that protects hippo skin from sunburn and keeps it moist.
To ward off enemies, a hippo may yawn, scoop water with its mouth, shake its head, rear up, lunge, roar, grunt, chase, and make a loud wheezing sound, all of which are threat displays. Hippos are definitely adapted for life in the water and are found living in slow-moving rivers and lakes in Africa.
With their eyes, ears, and nostrils on the top of the head, hippos can hear, see, and breathe while most of their body is underwater. Hippos also have a set of built-in goggles: a clear membrane covers their eyes for protection while still allowing them to see when underwater.
Hippos can even sleep underwater, using a reflex that allows them to bob up, take a breath, and sink back down without waking up. Their bodies are far too dense to float, so they move around by pushing off from the bottom of the river or simply walking along the riverbed in a slow-motion gallop, lightly touching the bottom with their toes, which are slightly webbed, like aquatic ballet dancers.
By comparison, the largest cattle eat 2.5 percent of their body weight each day. While hippos like to feed on patches of short grasses (called “hippo lawns”) close to water, they must sometimes travel several miles (kilometers) to find food, making long trips on land to new lakes or rivers.
When two hippos do decide to fight, they slash out with their tusks or swing their enormous heads like sledgehammers while bellowing loudly. Rube and Ruby were popular from the moment they arrived in 1940 as youngsters from the Calcutta Zoo in India.
Although Ruby died in 1982 and Rube in 1988, they have been immortalized as two of the Zoo’s popular costumed characters! By 1986, the Zoo's 50-year-old hippo habitat was showing its age, and a decision was made to close it until it could be replaced with an up-to-date facility.
Zoo visitors can observe hippo behavior on the beach and underwater all year long, as their habitat features 110 feet (33.5 meters) of underwater viewing behind a 2.25-inch-thick (5.7 centimeters) glass window, engineered to withstand the force of a 2-ton (1.8 tonnes) hippo moving at 15 miles per hour (24 kilometers per hour). Thanks to the temperate San Diego weather, the water in the pool does not need to be heated or chilled.
The pool is serviced by a large water filtration system and is also kept clean by a school of tilapia, one of the several species of African fish that, in the wild, would normally be feeding on the hippos dead skin and food remnants. Fulani, whose name means “desire” in Zulu, weighs about 3,600 pounds (1,630 kilograms).
Our adult male, Otis, is a “lightweight” for an animal that can reach a weight of 4 tons (3.6 tonnes); he tips the scale at 3,900 pounds (1,770 kilograms). The “little” guy delighted Zoo guests with his playful antics at the viewing window and has been a YouTube sensation, showing off some ballet moves.
Zoo guests watched her grow from a charismatic calf who enjoyed exploring the 150,000-gallon (567,812-liter) pool, to a young hippo. Keepers called this gregarious and adventurous young hippo calf “fearless,” as he quickly began looking for ways to get away from his watchful mom and go exploring throughout their Lost Forest habitat.
An unsuspecting human boater who enters hippo territory risks an aggressive response. Sometimes, it is the hippo that invades human areas like local farmlands, devouring crops.
Projects such as the building of dams or the diversion of water for agriculture often have disastrous impacts on natural waterways and the hippos that depend on them. The large canines that hippos use to protect themselves are made of the same material as elephants’ tusks.
In fact, they are slightly softer and easier to carve than elephant ivory, making them even more appealing. Elephants, cheetahs, and many other “at risk” African animals have organizations focused on their conservation, but there is no such group devoted to the future of hippos.
While the hippopotamus is resting near each other in the water, pasture is a desolate activity and hippos are not territorial in land. Hippopotamus is among the most dangerous animals on earth because it is extremely invasive and incredible.
To date, hippopotamus is the world’s deadliest large land mammal that kills an estimated 5 people every year in Africa. Growing men do not invade the land, but they will attack and often kill infant hippos underwater.
They can snap a canoe in half with their powerful jaws, and they kill about 500 people in Africa every year. Tap on the side of the boat to signal your location so that the hippos don’t come down.
“It was horrible,” recalled David Echeverri Lopez, a researcher at the regional environmental agency Cornier who led the 2013 sterilization effort. Now dozens of its wild spawn roam the wetlands north of Bogotá, the largest invasive species on the planet.
But to scientists, they are an ecological menace, competing with native wildlife and polluting local waterways. So reasoned Colombian officials charged with dismantling Escobar’s sprawling country estate after his death in 1993.
In their natural habitat, hippos spend the long dry season crowded into waterways that have shrunk to puddles. The animals spend five hours a day grazing on grasses and the rest of their time basking in the cool waters of the Magdalena River and surrounding lakes.
“The hippopotamus is the town pet,” resident Claudia Patricia Camacho told the news program Notices Cara col in 2018. In 2009, after a trio of escapees from Hacienda Naples were reported terrorizing local farms, Colombia’s environmental agency sent a team of hunters after the animals with an order to shoot on sight.
But then a photo emerged showing the soldiers posing with the carcass of one of the adults, named Pepe. A judge issued a ruling suspending the hunt for Pepe’s mate and offspring, and it became illegal to kill hippos in the country.
They piled carrots and fruit in the center of a wooden pen and waited for a hungry hippo to stroll through. “When he felt like he was enclosed, he jumped,” crushing the wooden barrier and escaping into the trees.
Though male hippos have what scientists politely term “spatially dynamic testes” (their genitalia is retractable, and can hide in an opening called the inguinal canal), females’ reproductive organs proved even harder to find. Echeverri is able to castrate roughly one hippo per year, whereas scientists estimate that the population grows by 10 percent annually.
A 2020 study of hippo-inhabited lakes found that nutrients in the animals’ feces were fueling huge blooms of bacteria and algae. In Africa, hippos act as ecosystem engineers, transferring nutrients from land to lakes and sculpting new channels for water as they tread across dry earth.
They might even fill the environmental niche left by massive mammals that went extinct after the Ice Age: giant llamas, a rhino relative called London. But Natal Castelblanco-Martínez, a Colombian ecologist working at the University of Quintana Roo in Mexico, was skeptical of this hypothesis.
Management of the hippo problem takes resources away from Colombia’s hundreds of endangered animals, Castelblanco-Martínez said. It also distracts officials from dealing with the roughly 400 invasive species that threaten native ecosystems.
No African nation would risk their own hippo population by reintroducing dozens of animals with mysterious origins and unknown behaviors. He suggested it might be possible to sterilize or relocate the 50 or so hippos in the lake near Hacienda Naples, and only cull those that have wandered farther afield.