The topic and timing of this contribution is probably a little odd, particularly since it’s on the eve of New Year’s Eve, but maybe the fierce nature of this topic suits the lead-up to the year ahead as we usher in the Year of the Dragon!
Moving right along, I’ve made it a religious habit to entreat myself to Nat Geo on telly on at least a couple of nights a week. Last night was no different and I experienced yet another visual spectacle—aggressive African hippos. Several things shocked me outright but some things also amazed me. I’ll start with the shocking stuff…
These docile-looking creatures are fiercely territorial and their aggression is not limited to other animals that veer into their path. They can venture far inland (breaching the perimeters of cityscapes) in search of grass to munch on—putting away up to 150 pounds of it within a single night!
Unsuspecting people that traverse their path find themselves in a real sticky situation as their presence triggers unnerved 6-10,000 pound hippos charging at them at 18 to 30 miles an hour on the ground or chomping boats in half in the water! Yikes!
Not the ideal pet for sure, but did you know male hippos also lay into each other with their 20-inch long ivory teeth, trying to assert authority over one another to secure territorial and mating privileges. Some of these confrontations can last a gruelling 45 minutes—brutally puncturing flesh and leaving deep gashes.
What is amazing though is that in the African climate, these gashes not only remain infection-free in the blistering heat and faeces-infested waters but also heal on their own accord! Hippo skin oozes a type of antibiotic sunscreen that not only shields them from the scorching heat but its high acidity content (hundreds of times more potent than vinegar) inhibits the growth of bacteria.
With no natural predators, hippos sure have it made in the animal kingdom. But their future survival isn’t guaranteed if the loss of habitat and poaching goes unchecked. Thankfully, they’re not on the endangered species list yet and hopefully will continue not to be for a long time coming, leaving them plenty of time to turn nose to tail and continue slashing one another.
Who’s stop to them anyway? I don’t think even Austin Powers will have the gall to say, “Oh behave” to this imposing beast.
Oh and “Happy New Year!”