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Nature Life: Hippopotamus And Nature

By Obiabin Onukwugha

The hippopotamus (hippo) is a large semiaquatic mammal native to sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae, the other being the pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis). Its name comes from the ancient Greek word for “river horse”

Hippos are among the most dangerous animals in the world due to their aggressive and unpredictable nature.

After elephants and rhinoceroses, the hippopotamus is the next largest land mammal. Hippos are recognisable for their barrel-shaped torsos, wide-opening mouths with large canine tusks, nearly hairless bodies, pillar-like legs, and large size.

Adults average 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) for bulls (males) and 1,300 kg (2,900 lb) for cows (females).

Despite its stocky shape and short legs, Hippopotamus is capable of running 30 km/h (19 mph) over short distances. Hippos inhabit rivers, lakes, and mangrove swamps.

Scientists report that mating and birth both occur in the water. Males reach sexual maturity between 6 and 14 years of age and breed with several females in their territory, whike females can breed at 7-15 years and usually reproduce every two years.

They are capable of breeding year round, but they mostly breed seasonally during dry seasons, in February and August.

During the day, hippos remain cool by staying in water or mud, emerging at dusk to graze on grasses. And while hippos rest near each other in the water, grazing is a solitary activity and hippos typically do not display territorial behaviour on land.

Reports have it that hippos are threatened by habitat loss and poaching for their meat and ivory (canine teeth).

Hippos play an important role in the ecosystem of African lakes and rivers. Through their feces, Hippos transport large quantities of silicon, an important substance for ecosystems, from land to water.

Yorubas call it “Erinmi”, Hausas call it “dorina.”

Why The Hippopotamus Opens Its Mouth Wide In Water

A very long time ago in Africa, when all the animals lived together in the bush with the Creator, most animals lived on the land, and only a very few lived in the water.

The hot sun baked the earth every day, and all the animals suffered one way or another. But the animals had strong skins to protect them against the sun, either fur, feathers or scales.

But only Hippo’s skin was not that strong. As he grew bigger, his skin begin to stretch, and become thinner as he become bigger and bigger. By the time he turned into an adult, his skin was so thin, that it got burned easily by the sun.

Every day Hippo suffered, as his skin dried and cracked, causing him a lot of pain and discomfort. One day when Hippo could not endure it anymore, he went to the Creator and asks: “Please, may I go live in the river?”

The Creator looked with kindness at Hippo and said: “Yes, my friend you may, but as with all things, you must first ask the permission from the river animals.”

So, Hippo asked the river animals, Fish Eagle, Crocodile and Otter: “Please may I come and live in the river with you. Look at my thin skin! It is cracked and very painful. The cool water will bring great comfort to me.

The river animals were a bit selfish, and also worried. After thinking about it for a short time, they said to Hippo: “No, we cannot allow this! Look at you! You are so big and will eat all the fish in the river. There will be no more food for us.”

Hippo said to the river animals: “You do not have to worry, as I do not eat fish. I will only eat the grass and river plants.”The river animals were very sceptical and did not belief this.

So Hippo told them: “I promise, every day I will open my mouth wide, so that you all can see there are no fish bones or scales in my mouth. And I will spread my dung with my tail, so that you can see there are no bones”

This convinced the river animals. So, from that day, the river animals allowed Hippo to live in the river, and Hippo would open his mouth always wide open, and spread his dung with his tail.



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