We are in the full swing of summer where greenery is all around us and clear skies quickly turn into darker stormy nights. The usual noise around this time of year at the causeway is the weavers going crazy, as well as some squawks from a grey heron’s nest just above the large pool of water on the southern bank.
This well situated body of water is prime real estate for hippos…
A pod of over 12 females reside at the causeway and it’s a piece of the reserve worth fighting for. Rain had been scarce prior to the recent flooding of the sand river, and for the hippos, water is a necessity for their day-to-day living. This is not just to quench their thirst but rather to keep their bodies hydrated and stay cool in the scorching summer’s day heat. It is widely known that the hippopotamus is an exceptionally dangerous and aggressive animal by nature. I have seen a few tussles between males for the dominance over a water source or for a pod of females but none quite as intense as this time.
In order to survive, and have succession of his individual genes which is his most important goal in life, a male hippo needs to be dominant over a group of females. He will protect these females against threats and will fight for access to such females for mating rights. And fight they did.
It is not very often that you get the opportunity of watching a full blow play out, outside of the water too. It is an intense battle between two bodies weighing over two tons, pure mass, teeth, jaws and blood. The two hippos battled it out for just under an hour. We heard the crashing noises as their lower canines – that can reach 50 centimetres long – clashed, and the piercing sounds as the incisors penetrated one bull’s lower jaw. It was quite gruesome but none of us could take our eyes off of the sensational battle we were witnessing. There were grinding noises as one individual battled to find grip on the washed-up river sand, eventually resulting in him sliding into the water and allowing his opponent to gain the upper hand by slashing a gash into his backside and fiercely chasing him through the depths of the water.
The fight played out for a few more minutes and eventually there could only be one winner. The other male who had fallen short with a blow to his left rump ended up leaving the waterhole. His head held low with the knowledge that today was not his day and that he would have to go searching for other prime real estate on the reserve.