- Scientific Name:
- Hippopotamus amphibius
- Park Location:
- Lost Kingdom
- Swamps, lakes, rivers
- Hippos were once thought to ‘sweat’ blood, this is untrue but they do carry a red pigment in their glands, which makes their sweat look like blood and acts as a sunscreen.
- Despite having big barrel-shaped bodies and little stumpy legs, hippos are really fast runners, reaching speeds of 20 miles an hour!
- The hippos’ closest relatives are camels, pigs and deer.
- The hippo is genetically most closely related to dolphins and whales!
The hippopotamus, literally translated, means river horse. They spend their days in water as their skin is very susceptible to sun-burning. They are herbivores consuming between 1 and 1.5% of their body weight in vegetation every day!
A hippo can grow to 4.5 feet (1.4 metres) high and about 13 feet (4 metres) long. They can weigh as much as 8000 pounds (3650 kilos)! They are almost hairless, with a HUGE mouth that can open 4 feet (1.2 metres) wide!
They are mainly nocturnal (most active at night), and spend most of their days resting in water. They can stay completely submerged for up to half an hour, but generally come up to breathe every 5-6 minutes. At night they emerge from the water to feed. Herds comprise of 10 - 15 individuals with a dominant male, females and their offspring. Males become very territorial during the breeding season with fights often ending in death. After 8 months' gestation, females give birth to a single calf, usually underwater. Calves stay with the herd for several years. Males will leave the family herd after 8-9 years while females will stay and join the herd.
The main threats are the loss of essential grazing ground to human settlement and poaching. The hippo is a very aggressive mammal; with the increase in human settlement near the hippo’ habitat more human/hippo conflict is being reported. Hippos will kill people if threatened. They have also become notorious crop raiders further implementing themselves with local people. The ban on international trade of elephant ivory has also led to increased poaching of hippo teeth. Habitat protection is the most favourable conservation route, with captive breeding programmes in zoos also combating the plummeting numbers.