Spring: A transition from winter into summer where daylight hours get longer, the weather slowly starts to warm up, migratory birds return and we get excited to receive the first rains of the season… This is what I usually associate with spring in the bush. I slowly begin to pack away my gloves and warm scarves, replacing them with wider hats and sunscreen. This year for some reason though, Mother Nature has thrown a curve ball at us and decided to skip spring altogether. The transition from winter to summer was almost over night, and wow has it come in hot – pun intended!

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A male hippo shows off his massive teeth to another male who has moved into his water source over night.

With the mercury rising each day, and the expectation of the first rains still being a few weeks away, we are starting to notice the bush dry up ever so quickly. One of the most notable places to watch this is the waterholes.

The intense heat is creating huge amounts of evaporation on a daily basis. Luckily for us we have a fair amount of water at Londolozi, so there is usually drinking water for the animals. For animals that rely on the water to live in though, it’s starting to get tricky. We’ve noticed an increased amount of crocodile tracks on the roads in the mornings; no doubt these large reptiles moving from one source of water to another in order to find the best possible living conditions. One of the most notable changes for me though is the increased tension amongst hippos, most notably the males. Being such large creatures and relying on large amounts of water to escape the heat during the day, they have been moving around quite a bit at night in order to find the optimal spots to spend their days and to find good grazing.

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The more dominant male was even keeping a wary eye on us in the vehicle – just to make sure we had no intention of entering his water source.

Male hippos will tolerate females in their water sources as well as young males who don’t show any threat to hierarchy, but certainly don’t take lightly to new males entering their water with the intention of taking over the dominance.

A little while ago my guests and I were spectators to one of these happenings; a new male had entered another males water source and was obviously not welcome.

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A couple of less aggressive exchanges were exchanged at first, no doubt the intruder sizing his opponent up.

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Slowly but surely the exchanges got more serious…

The clash was intense. Two animals that are around two tons in weight and smashing into each other with razor sharp teeth is something incredible to witness. The noise that emerges from these beasts is rather strange. Whenever I hear it, it always makes me think that Steven Spielberg must have heard hippos fighting when deciding on the noises used for dinosaurs in the first Jurassic Park movie. It’s unbelievable. We watched the two go at it for some time until the intruder decided he was not up to the challenge and backed down.

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The exchange gets very serious, neither of the males wanting to give up.

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Water is thrashed from side to side, creating massive waves that cover the bank around the area.

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The other hippos, mainly females, look on at this clash of two heavyweights.

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The entire fight must have been around 40 minutes long, with this particular exchange being about five minutes on its own. One can imagine how tired these two males must have been. But neither one was willing to show any sign of weakness.

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One can just imagine how much strength and power is generated from that massive neck.

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The larger male (right) begins to gain the upper hand over the intruder who is showing signs of tiring.

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The intruder accepts his defeat and begins to back down from the larger more dominant male.

It was an amazing experience for both me and my guests, as well as a rather humbling one. These animals that we spend time with each and every day certainly go through many hardships, yet they still manage to survive through these tough times – a strong message that I think we can all take out of the bush.

Filed under Wildlife

About the Author

Kevin Power

Field Guide

Kevin hails from the small town of George, but we try not to hold that against him... After obtaining a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Finance at the University of Stellenbosch, Kev realised that town life wasn't for him for the moment, and ...

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2 Comments

on Hippos Feel the Heat…

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Georgie Elliott
Guest

Love it!!

Judy B.
Guest

Wow, Kevin. What an amazing sight to witness! Awesome photos! It was great to see you at Londolozi in August.

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