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Hippopotamus

Hippopotami (hippopotamus amphibius), called "hippos", live in swamps and wetlands near rivers, lakes and lagoons. They belong to the endangered species.

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Hippos are vegetarians and feed exclusively on grass. During the day they are resting or sleeping near or in the water, often submerged with only eyes, ears and nostrils sticking out. They are relatively bad swimmers. Hippos prefer to walk on the ground of the lake or to let themselves be carried by the water. In the evenings and at night they leave the sheltering water to look for food.

Adult hippos have basically no natural enemies. Only young ones can fall prey to crocodiles or lions. Hippos can grow to the age of 40 years in the wilderness.

Hippos are the most feared animals in southern Africa. Each year more people are killed by them than by all the other animals together. Hippos weigh up to two tons and can be four metres long. They watch strictly over their territories and threaten anybody invading it by what looks like yawning. If the invader does not withdraw, they usually charge without any further hesitation. Smaller boats are particularly at risk, because a hippo can easily topple it over, and as their front teeth are as sharp as razorblades, chances of survival are slim.

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© Charles Hotham

Game Parks: Hippos are numerous in the rivers in north Namibia, in the Chobe Park (Botswana) and in the Okavango Delta.

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