|Images of Africa|
|by John Walker|
Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) are abundant in the rivers of southern Africa: we saw (and heard) them in the Zambezi and Luangwa in Zambia, and the Okavango in Botswana. What you usually see is illustrated here--just the silhouette of the head or only the eyes emerging from the water, and that only sporadically. We spotted these hippos in the Zambezi from a small boat we took from The River Club where we were staying on the Zambia side. Hippos usually come out of the water by night and only infrequently by day. The inset shows a group of four hippos we spotted on an island in the Zambezi. The pink colour is not a photographic artefact--hippos secrete a pink, oily substance which acts as sunscreen and keeps their skin moist when they're out of the water; they were once thought to sweat blood, which actually only Windows software developers do. Despite their ungainly appearance on land, they move quickly and gracefully in the water. They are aggressive, have little fear of humans, and are considered among the most dangerous of African mammals. When startled while grazing at night, a hippo will bolt for the nearest water, trampling anything and anybody in its path.