Hippopotamus are huge, sensitive animals. They are touted to be the most dangerous animal to humans in Africa even though they are only aggressive out of fear. They are one of the Big Five, so-called because hunters feared these five animals the most. The others are rhinoceros, lion, leopard, and buffalo. The others will seek out the hunter who wounds them, but the hippo seeks the safety of the water when wounded, so they are no real threat to hunters in the way the others are.
Hippos are dangerous because they are so big, fast in spite of their size and scare easily. They react when humans get too close and the move too fast for a human to escape. A couple of years ago, a resident of St. Lucia lost a leg to a hippo. His security light was out so he did not see the hippo when he entered his yard. When his wife discovered him some time later, the hippo was happily munching the grass a few feet from the man. The threat was gone so the hippo was no longer interested in the man he had attacked.
Hippos are also a danger to boaters who get too close As one approaches to closely, they open their mouths to show their teeth. Sometimes people think they are just yawning and so miss the warning. Before they know it the boat is capsized and they are swimming for their lives – if they can even swim.
Hippos spend the day in the water to protect their sensitive skin. They will dry out quickly in the sun and by the end of a single day will be covered in cuts from the sunburn. Once the sun sets they leave the water to graze. On land they will separate to graze. When they return to the water in the morning they will group up and enjoy each other’s company.
The pictures are from our first morning at Zulu Nyala. We watched them and the birds around the pond for about 30 minutes. Since they are resting the action probably happened when one hippo bumped or stepped on another in their sleep. Less than a minute after it started, they were again settled in to the water with only a small bit of the body showing.