Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Hippo Story

My Hippo Story starts in the Kruger National Park, where we saw our first hippo "walking about" - probably because it was a cloudy and cool day - since hippo usually only emerge at dusk to graze on dry land.

Did you know that once, hippos were widespread throughout Southern Africa (wherever a body of water with gently sloping banks existed, bordering grassy plains); whereas today, these formidable amphibians are mainly found in the Mpumalanga Province and the coastal belt of northern KwaZulu-Natal.

The story "gains momentum" as soon as we visit Lake St Lucia (an estuary as well as a lagoon - also a UNESCO World Heritage site), where about 800 hippos reside. During a boat cruise, we see this hippo emerge.........

............before we realise that protectively, it is trying to "screen" its youngster from our view.

Further along, other hippos are dozing in the sun whilst lazily leaning their heads on the backs of others in the colony.

Massive heads with small ears, protruding eyes and nostrils projected just above the water's surface, are popping up "all over the show".

Although a hippo's skin is protected by a glandular secretion, we detect a few hippo that appear "sun-burnt".......

..........or is the "excessive" pink colour perhaps the result of a kind of mutation?

Not only does a hippo have a huge, barrel-like body, but it is the most dangerous animal to encounter on land - hippos have killed more people in Africa than the wild animals "belonging" to the BIG 5..........

.........or than the crocodile!!

A visit to the St Lucia estuary/lagoon certainly includes "spotting" crocodiles, where about 2 000 crocodiles (like the hippos) have adapted to the brackish water conditions: a mixture of fresh and sea water -
and that's where our story today ends.

For further information on The Greater St Lucia Wetland Park, you can visit my blog-entry on Sunday, 20 April 2008 - "A World Heritage Site".

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