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An adult hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibious) that died from fighting injuries at Buffels Hide revealed some interesting intra species behaviour.

During the earlier part of August there were reports from between one and four hippos together at the hide. More recent sightings reported only two hippos at the hide, one of which appeared to be ill.

The illness symptoms turned out to be the after effects of territorial fighting. There was a nasty wound under the hippo’s mouth, almost impossible to observe whilst alive, as hippos have a tendency to carry their heads in a low position when wondering around on land. No doubt this wound had festered and harboured the life threatening infection, impinging on tongue and jaw action. From the fecal remains in the gut it was clear that all grass in-take was poorly digested, resulting in malnutrition and an inability to heal its natural injuries.

The interesting intra species behaviour referred to is the observed mourning behaviour of its surviving mate. It stood resting its head on the carcass of its companion whilst two lions aggressively fed on this opportunistic meal at the far end. When I overheard this narration from Members in Bungalow # 58 it made me think back to Members in Bungalow # 148 last year witnessing the breeding herd of elephants gently sniffing the remains of the aged elephant cow that died on the Buffelsbed/Sibon cut line. There are written accounts of elephants covering their dead with branches and leaves. This made me think of at least two separate incidents where I have observed female baboons carrying their dead offspring around for days after their infants had died.

These are the sadder images of the fascinating and unpredictable events that nature imposes and as humans we continuously speculate and ponder about different animal behaviour and many research studies are undertaken to interpret animal communication abilities. Think of the whale songs, the sub sonic elephant sounds, and maternal calls that exist between mothers and their young.

However, one of the Africa’s greatest wildlife stories is the account of Huberta the hippo, who in 1928 undertook an epic journey of 1600 kilometres, wondering all the way from St Lucia in KZN to a destination in the Eastern Cape. Another is the wildlife documentary often screened on television where film makers captured amazing shots of a hippo rescuing an impala from the jaws of a hungry crocodile.


by John Llewellyn.