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IN THE WILD: What makes the hippo to be  against the rest of the world

IN THE WILD: What makes the hippo to be against the rest of the world

ZOOLOGISTS define the hippo as a large herbivorous which weigh between 1,300 and 1,500 kilogrammes.

The animal dwells in the savannah of sub Saharan countries such as Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Africa and Tanzania which has one of the largest population of these mammals. Savannah grasslands of Africa harbor different spices of wild animals in great number than any geographical areas in the entire world.

Today scientists are warning that the savannah is a delicate ecosystem with many endangered inhabitants who are facing man made challenges because of economic development and pride. Reports from different parts of the savannah indicate every day the level of danger to almost every animal dwelling in the Savannah is increasing. The man made problems has pushed some species like cheetah, elephant and rhinoceros at the brink of extinction while others like hippopotamus are defending themselves through attacks to anybody getting closer in their environments.

Hippos are territorial only in water, full grown male controls a territory of water together with a shoreline of 50 to100 yards. To mark territory, hippos spin their tails while defecting to distribute their excrement. Hippos also urinate backwards for the same reason. Battle erupt when strange bulls invade territories. Most aggression is noise, splash, bluff charges, and a yawning display of the enlarged canines to frighten the trespasser. Males ram each other with their mouth open, using their huge heads as sledgehammers and their big mouths as confrontation becomes physical. They use their lower incisors and wounds can be fatal but rarely kill each other.

A dominant bull and a challenging bachelor normally stop fighting after clearing who is stronger. When hippos become overpopulated or their habitats shrink, bulls may attempt to kill infants. Such behavior is uncommon under normal conditions. Some incidents of hippo cannibalism have been documented, but that’s the behavior of distressed or sick hippos. Different reports from different countries in Africa indicate the hippo is responsible for more human fatalities in the savannah than any other animal, making it most dangerous animal. Scientists say these attacks may be results of non stopping conflicts between the smartest creature and the king of African water.

As this is happening, history tells as the pre-colonial Africa continent is believed to have a vast savannah grassland rich in flora and fauna but today most of these highly priced heritages have vanished completely because of poaching and deforestations. Savannah grasslands of Africa harbor different spices of wild animals in great number than any geographical areas in the entire world.

On the other hand, few years ago many television viewers across the world saw a dangerous scenario from a news bulletin where a hungry hippo was fearfully chasing a motorboat which was carrying European tourists through one lakes in Africa.

Scientists say this action and other violent behavior from the modern hippo is a result of constant conflicts between humans and the king of wetland in Africa. Historians believe that in ancient days, the hippo was cool, shy and polite and obedient to nature which forced it to live around wetlands.

After coming under pressure from human activities which come with loss of habitat, drought and interference, the humble mammal of 50 million years ago has turned into a monster.

Scientists say what is happening to the hippo is part of long natural process called evolution, which can be defined as changes in heritable character of biological populations over successive generations. It is a process which gives rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation including the levels of species, individual organisms and molecules.

Scientists say all life on Earth shares a common ancestor known as the last universal common ancestor which lived between 3.5 and 3.8 billion years ago. Scientists say the evolution process in organisms occurs through changes in heritable traits, the inherited characteristics of an organism. Scientists continue to say the inherited traits are controlled by genes and the complete set of genes within an organism’s genome is called its genotype.

The complete set of observable traits that make up the structure and behavior of an organism is called its phenotype, these characters come from the interaction of its genotype with the environment.

Hippopotamus is said to originate from an ancestor that roamed in savannah grasslands but moved into rivers and lakes of Africa about 20 million years ago. In order to match with the climatic changes which happened during the Miocene, ancestors of modern hippopotamus went through different changes which enabled them to live in longer drought periods with high temperature.

About 18 million years ago, another great great grand parent of modern hippos is believed to make the initial steps of adaptation from grassland to wetland. From that time, ancient hippo gained ability to swim and live in the river by using a special mechanism called Graviportality which enable their heavy body to submerge in water and Specific gravity which deal with gravitation force.

Scientists say whales are closest relatives of hippos but they were separated more than 50 millions years ago. Historians say it was during those days when ancestors of modern hippos grew webbed feet which enabled them to swim and make different move on the dry land. Historians say the prehistoric hippos looked like a modern pigs and they were not aggressive because after the adaptation they swam to Europe where the ancient Greeks gave the name which is still used until today.

Scientists say today the hippo is passing through a difficult period associated with by human economic activities which dramatically have changed the humble and lazy looking mammal into a most dangerous animal in Africa.

Scientific reports show the hippos is responsible for about 50% every outrageous attacks which cause death to many farmers, tour guides and tourist in different lakes, swamps and rivers in Africa. Like a killer in rampage, hippos are responsible for about 50% every outrageous attacks which cause death to many farmers, tour guides and tourist in different lakes, swamps and rivers in Africa but scientists say the herbivorous mammal is now changing very fast into a carnivorous and cannibal who kill and eat his own brother and sister.

Scientists say they have observed two separate incidents where group of hippos were involved in eating a carcass of their fellow hippo while fighting with each other and some courageous crocodiles who dared to get closer to these killers.

Scientists say what was more unusual in this event the state of the carcass which had all signs of decomposing but the mammals who are believed to be an herbivorous didn’t care and continue to feast on the body which was weighing more than 1,500 kilograms and send shocking waves to ecologists who think the second heaviest land animal is evolving into a deadly scavenger.

The above incident took place in Kruger National Park of South Africa but scientists say that there some evidences of hippos are changing their habits into predators because in 1995 some of them were seen snatching, killing and eating antelopes and primates who were coming to drink water from a pool in Hwange National Park of Zimbabwe.

This is not a thing to laugh about or ignore, it’s a serious habitual changes which put people and other animals in danger because in a day a healthy hippo is capable of consuming about 50 kilograms of grasses making scientists to be more worried of what will happen to villages located near a national park like Manyara where there history of attacks from these evolving and deadly mammal.

For a long period of time there has been conflicts between man and this mammal who has few enemies in jungle but scientists say its possible we don’t much them because samples of the dung collected from different game reserves and national parks in Africa including those found in Tanzania have indicated that the hippo is turning into an omnivorous who eating everything including flesh from his own relatives. Hippos spend most of their day in water and can stay submerged for 5 to10 minutes. If a small fishing boat glides above them, when they come up for air, there’s little to protect the vessel from capsizing.

The razor sharp canine teeth can bite a small boat easily in half. Attacks on small boats are antipredator behavior, with hippos mistaking them for crocodiles. Male hippos actively defend their territories and females are known to get highly aggressive if someone comes in between their babies in the water while they feed on the shore. Hippos can easily outrun a human at speeds of 30 kilometers per hour and they have enormous jaws which host dangerous teeth.

This shows that there is nothing you can do if a hippo comes straight at you. Hunters call lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and African buffalos: ‘The Big Five’. They were chosen as being the most dangerous animals to hunt and responsible for killing hunters on their safaris. But why is the hippopotamus not part of the Big Five, as statistics show, it kills more people in African than any other mammal?

Hippos are extremely dangerous, but not difficult to hunt, in water they are relaxed when approached on foot, making it easy for a hunter to get close without much threat of an attack. The Big Five are not the biggest, but the hardest to hunt: that’s why hippos and giraffes are not included. Hunter also believe that the finest trophies come from the Big Five. Common hippos live in rivers and lakes throughout African south of the Sahara Desert. Today there are an estimated 125,000 to 150,000 common hippos remaining.

Reports show Zambia has about 40,000 followed by Tanzania with 30,000 which makes the two neighboring countries to hold the largest populations of hippos in the world.

Hippos are safe from predators because of their size and aquatic habits, but they are threatened by human poaching and habitat loss than half a million elephants, while the hippo population is figured at about 150,000 individuals. Less than 1/3 of the elephants living on the African Continent. Hippos are mainly found in parks and other protected areas, where numbers are increasing now.

Experts say when going into the savannah please follow two golden rules: First, never get between the hippo and the water. Hippos do not want to eat people but they will get extremely aggressive, attack and bite, inflicting fatal wounds. Secondly, never encroach on a hippo’s territory in their patch of water because it means an uninvited guest invading their comfort zone.

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Author: REGINALD MATILLYA

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