A difference from day to night
It’s just past 1.00 A.M. We are in our tent on a campsite, close to Luangwa River in Zambia. In the far distance a hyena is squealing, but for the rest it’s silent, until peace is disturbed by an enormous rumour, that slowly comes closer to us. We wake up, but cannot recognize the sounds. On a certain moment it’s getting really close to us and carefully we open the zipper of our tent a little bit. Right next to us we see the rowdy. Arduously, a hippo is chewing some fruits that have fallen out of a kigelia tree. What a noise. The animal doesn’t notice us and like this we can observe him from a very close distance. What a great experience !
In the case of hippos there is really a difference from day to night. At daytime, one generally sees no more from a hippo that two eyes and ears in the water, that curiously observe every move you make. Sometimes a hippo tries to command respect by opening its enormous mouth yawning, but more activity than that cannot be seen. During daytime, hippos prefer to stay in or close to the water, because their skin is thin and it has no transpiration glands. The risk of dehydration or overheating in the sun is consequently very big. They find protection in the water.
When the sun sets, hippos leave the water and sometimes travel long distances to reach the grazing areas. At dawn, they return to the water and always use the same route for that. We´ve been told that hippos travel upto 30 km to reach their grazing areas. Hippos live in crowds of about 10 to 15 animals and these crowds are led by an authoritarian bull. This bull is the boss of its own territory and he defends this with lots of noise and show of force. It´s always nice to hear a forceful hippo that makes clear who´s the boss with shrill voice.
During various safaris, guides have told us that hippos have the largest number of human victims on their account. They sometimes surprise people when they return to the water in the early morning. Although the number of casualties is substantial we still think that elephants must have made many more human victims..