April 30, 2014
- as seen by -Julie Larsen Maher
Hippopotamuses —derived from the Greek words for “river horses”—are herbivores that live most of their lives in water. During evening feeding rituals, they break for the banks. My camp is along their route to the grassy glades. Their big bellies brush my tent’s borders as they pass by.
Waterfront real estate has high value, especially to male hippos in need of a length of riverbank to establish mating territories. Setting up squatter’s rights can result in fierce battles as they bellow and bare their huge canine teeth. I pay heed to the hippos’ space and take photos from a reverential distance.
Despite their reputation for bad tempers, hippos are not their own worst enemy. Illegal and unregulated hunting for their meat and teeth (a source of ivory for export) has landed one of the world’s largest land mammals on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with “Vulnerable” status.