Hippopotamus

1.6 ton (1.5 tonne) + 48 km/h (30 mph) = what do you think?

abzerit


Hippopotamus

EXEWCRENVUNTLCDDNE

1.6 ton (1.5 tonne) + 48 km/h (30 mph) = what do you think?

Population 115,000 – 130,000
7 – 20% decline over the past 10 years

The hippopotamus, often simply called a hippo, is a fascinating and unique creature inhabiting sub-Saharan Africa’s waterways. Known for their colossal size, hippos are the third-largest living land mammals after elephants and white rhinos. Despite their bulky appearance and terrestrial mammal classification, hippos share a closer genetic kinship with cetaceans (whales and dolphins) than with any terrestrial mammal, a remarkable fact that highlights the diverse evolutionary paths within the animal kingdom.

Hippos are easily recognizable by their massive, nearly hairless bodies except for some sparse bristles on their tail and ears. Their legs are short and sturdy, resembling pillars capable of supporting their enormous weight. One of the most distinctive features of hippos is the placement of their eyes, nostrils, and ears high on the top of their heads. This adaptation allows them to submerge most of their body underwater while still being able to breathe and stay alert for predators or threats.

Semi-aquatic by nature, hippos spend a significant portion of their time in water bodies such as rivers, lakes, and swamps. The water serves multiple purposes for them; it helps to keep their massive bodies cool under the hot African sun and provides a refuge from predators. Despite their heavy frame, hippos are adept swimmers and can hold their breath underwater for up to five minutes. They are most active at night when they leave the water to graze on grasslands. Hippos are herbivores, and their diet mainly consists of grass. They can travel significant distances—up to several kilometers—searching for food.

Hippos’ reliance on freshwater habitats directly conflicts with humans, especially in regions where water resources are increasingly scarce. Competition for water for agriculture, drinking, and other uses has led to habitat loss and increased human-hippo conflicts. Additionally, their need for considerable amounts of fresh water and grazing land makes them vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and human expansion.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Algeria
Official estimate
EX
Extinct locally
Angola
500
Official estimate
VU
2019
Benin
500
Official estimate
VU
2019
Botswana
2,000-4,000
Official estimate
VU
2019
Burkina Faso
1,500-2,000
Official estimate
VU
2019
Burundi
500-1,000
Official estimate
VU
2019
Cameroon
1,500-2,000
Official estimate
VU
2019
Central Af. Rep.
200-500
Official estimate
VU
2019
Chad
500
Official estimate
VU
2019
Congo-Brazzaville
50
Official estimate
VU
2019
Côte D’ivoire
2017
unknown
DR Congo (Kinshasa)
5,000
Official estimate
VU
2019
Egypt
Official estimate
EX
Extinct locally
Equatorial Guinea
50-100
Official estimate
VU
2019
Eritrea
Official estimate
EX
Extinct locally
Eswatini
2017
Unknown
Ethiopia
2,500
Official estimate
VU
2019
Gabon
200-300
Official estimate
VU
2019
Gambia
40
Official estimate
VU
2019
Ghana
150-200
Official estimate
VU
2019
Guinea-Bissau
200-500
Official estimate
VU
2019
Guinea
500
Official estimate
VU
2019
Kenya
5,000-7,000
Official estimate
VU
2019
Liberia
Official estimate
EX
Extinct locally
Malawi
3,000
Official estimate
VU
2019
Mali
100
Official estimate
VU
2019
Mauritania
Official estimate
EX
Extinct locally
Mozambique
3,000
Official estimate
VU
2019
Namibia
3,500
Official estimate
VU
2019
Niger
150-200
Official estimate
VU
2019
Nigeria
100-200
Official estimate
VU
2019
Rwanda
1,000
Official estimate
VU
2019.
Senegal
2017
Sierra Leone
100-200
Official estimate
VU2019
Somalia
50
Official estimate
VU
2019
South Africa
7,000
Official estimate
VU
2019
South Sudan
2,000-3,000
Official estimate
VU
2019
Sudan
2017
Unknown
Tanzania
20,000
Official estimate
VU
2019
Togo
2017
Unknown
Uganda
7,000-10,000
Official estimate
VU
2019
Zambia
40,000-45,000
Official estimate
VU
2019
Zimbabwe
5,000
Official estimate
VU
2019

Recent updates

March 2023: The African Wildlife Foundation announced plans to support conservation efforts for hippos in Uganda, including anti-poaching measures, habitat restoration, and community-based conservation programs.

Jan 2023: A new study published in the journal Animal Conservation found that hippo populations in Kenya’s Mara River face significant threats from habitat loss, pollution, and human-wildlife conflict.

2022: Human activities have had a significant negative impact on the habitats of hippopotamuses in Bui National Park, Ghana. The construction of a dam has caused an increase in water levels, flooding the areas where the animals used to reside and leading to a decrease in forest cover, as well as the destruction of riparian grasses. This has caused a decline in the hippopotamus population of 70%, from 209 individuals in 2003 to 64 individuals in 2021.

Dec 2022: Born Free, an international wildlife and conservation charity, has cautioned that the population of hippos in Africa is still dropping due to laws that are tightening the illegal ivory trade.

Did you know?

  • The unlikely cousin of a whale is the only mammal with an amphibious call.
  • Hippos can neither swim nor breathe underwater! Instead, they walk on the bottom of the riverbed.
  • Their name, hippopotamus, is derived from an ancient Greek word meaning “horse of the river,” but hippos are not at all related to horses.
  • Grass is their favorite food; in just one night, they can gobble up to 35kg (77lb) of grass( typically do not eat aquatic vegetation). The main reason for nocturnal feeding adaptation may be thermoregulation.
  • They are one of the largest land animals on Earth and can weigh up to 3,200kg (7,000 lb). That’s as much as two compact SUVs!
  • Their skin may crack if exposed to the air or sun for long periods and must remain moist, so they require some form of a permanent water source.
  • Complex bellows and grunts are used for signaling and can be transmitted simultaneously through air and water.
  • Their sweat glands secrete a red oily substance which acts as natural sun/UV-block as well as antibiotic, plus it won’t wash out in the water!
  • African at-risk wildlife, like elephants and rhinos, have organizations focused on their conservation, creating good chances for species survival. There is no organization working on the conservation of hippos.
  • In the 19th century hippo teeth were used as piano keys and artificial teeth.

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No

Hippo on banknotes

500 francs banknote