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Do hippopotamus have horns?

 

“Do hippopotamus have horns?”

 

Occasionally I like to check the keywords used on search engines that lead to our blog. This task of mine has lead me to realise that this is something that many people ask but we hadn’t covered it.

In order to answer the question “Do hippopotamus have horns?” we must first answer the following question:

 

“What is the difference between hippopotamus and rhinoceros?”

 

So why would I assume that the problem here is that you might be confusing hippos and rhinos?
The answer is quite simple. In terms of appearance, habitat and even (some) behaviour, both species can be quite similar, therefore many people sometimes get them mixed up.

So first of all let’s check out the similarities between species:

 

Both Rhinoceros and Hippopotamus are:

  • Big, heavy animals (both males and females weighing over a tonne),
  • Greyish in colour with a thick skin,
  • Mammals (babies drink milk from the mother),
  • Located in the African continent,
  • Very dangerous to humans,
  • Herbivorous (only eat plant matter),
  • Territorial (males),
  • Faster than any human on Earth (yes, even Usain Bolt),
  • Can’t swim.
White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
Photo Credit

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
Photo Credit

 

 

Now what about the differences between these two species?

Rhinoceros:

  • Second largest land mammal,
  • There are 5 different species of rhinos: white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus), indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) and the sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).
  • Located in Africa and Asia,
  • Spend their day on land,
  • Have been around for about 11 million to 15 million years,
  • Don’t have any sharp teeth,
  • Are odd toed ungulates (with three toes on each foot).
  • Very threatened by illegal poaching,
  • Are one of the Big 5 species,
  • Have horn(s). The Javan and Indian species have only one horn while the black, white and sumatran species have two horns on their face.
White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) mother with baby

White rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum) with baby
Photo Credit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hippopotamus:

  • They are the third largest land mammal,
  • There are only 2 species of hippopotamus: the “normal” hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) and the pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis),
  • Only located in Africa,
  • Spend most of their day inside the water (but can’t swim!),
  • Share a common ancestor with whales,
  • Have been around for 8 million to 16 million years,
  • Have very big, sharp canines and incisors (tusks), used for fighting,
  • Are even toed ungulates (with four toes on each foot),
  • Not as threatened by illegal poaching as the rhino,
  • Don’t have horns!
Mother Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) with baby

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) with baby
Photo Credit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So to conclude:

Hippopotamus do not have horns but they do have big tusks that they use to defend against predators or fight each other.

Rhinoceros use their horns to defend against predators and fight each other since they don’t have tusks.

 

Angry hipppopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
Photo Credit

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)

White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum)
Photo Credit


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Até à próxima!
~Sofia.

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On Drug Lords and Hippos

We are all familiar with one of Africa’s most iconic animals; the noble hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius). The hippopotamus (or hippo) is a large, aquatic, herbivorous mammal that lives in the waterways of sub-Saharan Africa, however, for the last couple of decades, these animals have embarked on a peculiar experiment and have begun to colonise some of the lakes and rivers of Colombia in South America.

A black and white portrait of Pablo Escobar.

Pablo Escobar was a Colombian drug lord who used his extraordinary wealth to build his own private zoo.

This bizarre story starts with the exploits of one man in the 1980s: Pablo Escobar was a notorious Colombian drug lord who trafficked cocaine and built a crime empire that earned him the title of world’s wealthiest criminal. In the 1980s, Escobar’s cartel controlled 80% of the world’s cocaine industry and he managed to acquire US$30 billion in the process. So where does a billionaire drug lord make his home? Well, in a sprawling, luxurious, palatial estate of course: Escobar built for himself the sprawling Hacienda Nápoles; a 20km2 ranch containing everything from a private airport, to a bullring, to a dinosaur themed playground, but the most important part (for this story) is the zoo. The Hacienda Nápoles zoo contained a huge variety of exotic creatures, smuggled into Colombia from all over the world, many from Africa, including a small herd of 4 hippos.

So what happens next? Well, in 1993, Pablo Escobar was killed in a gun battle with Colombian police leaving the future of his ill-gained property uncertain. The next battle was a legal one, over who was responsible for the sprawling ranch in Antioquia (a region of rural Colombia); Escobar’s family fought with the government for many years over custody, but in the meantime, the hacienda was neglected and fell into disrepair. Thankfully, most of the resident animals of Escobar’s zoo were relocated to zoos in and out of Colombia where they could be cared for properly, but the hippos were left behind (no-one is particularly eager to take on a group of 2 tonne adult hippos). The hippo habitat at the hacienda is, thankfully, quite suited to the animals and they were happy to reside there while the rest of the zoo was slowly reclaimed by the forest.

The story gets interesting again a whole 14 years later in 2007 when local farmers and fishermen in the region began contacting the government’s environmental department reporting encounters with strange animals in Antioquia’s rivers and lakes. As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, these strange animals were Escobar’s hippos. It turns out that the hippo’s lake at Hacienda Nápoles was only separated from the waters beyond by a flimsy fence that was no match for a hefty hippo and adventurous individuals had pushed past the fence and explored the lush waterways beyond, in particular the Río Magdalena (Magdalena river).

Hippos

The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) is native to sub-Saharan Africa, but has been introduced to South America.
Photo Credits.

Colombia turned out to be an ideal place for displaced hippos to prosper, especially the Antioquia region where a tropical climate keeps things warm and wet, and the Magdalena river system provides an ideal habitat due to its shallow and slow moving waters. Most of the regions in Africa from where hippos originate are annually subjected to extended dry periods where hippopotamus populations are forced to battle for survival until the rains return and the rivers swell once more; this is not the case in their new South American home and the Colombian hippos are free to frolic all year round. And ‘frolic‘ they did; Escobar originally smuggled 4 hippos into his zoo (3 females and 1 male) and in new ideal conditions, without adequate management, that population exploded and now there are estimated to be as many as 60 individuals in the area! The original male hippo, named El Viejo (The Old Man) produced several sons who would have been driven away from their maternal group when they reached sexual maturity which triggered their exodus from the zoo, out into the wild.

The hippos have expanded their kingdom quite extensively and there have been sightings as far as 250km away from the zoo. Encounters between local people and the animals has been becoming increasingly common; the region is very sparsely populated but those who live there are predominantly farmers and fishermen. The encounters usually take place on or around the water, but sometimes at night, when the animals come onto land to feed (often on farmers’ crops). We know that hippos can be extremely dangerous animals, one of the most dangerous animals on Earth, and certainly the most dangerous mammal, killing thousands of people every year in Africa, however, fortunately there have yet to be any deaths or serious injuries relating to the Colombian hippos, but it is perhaps just a matter of time. As encounters become more and more intimate, the odds of a deadly conflict increase and there are already reports of baby hippos being brought into homes and children swimming in ponds inhabited by the notoriously grumpy creatures.

The Open Mouth of a Hippo

Hippos use their formidable canines to attack rivals and threats. They are the most dangerous mammals on Earth.
Photo Credits.

So what is the future for these alien animals? That is a complicated question that has many answers. The hippos pose a potential safety risk to local people and threaten regional crops and livestock, but there is also an ecological risk; the hippopotamus does not belong in South America and the population is growing wildly out of control. Everyone involved agrees that something needs to be done, but no-one can seem to agree what is the best course of action. The one thing that is certain is that they can’t go back to the wild in Africa due to disease transmission risks, but there are several other proposed ideas:

  • A dedicated wildlife reserve should be created to house all of the animals once they have been rounded up.

  • All of the males should be identified and castrated so that the population will not grow any further, and eventually die off.

  • The animals should be hunted for food for the local people (apparently hippo tastes remarkably like pork).

  • A full scale culling operation should be used.

  • Every hippo should be captured and relocated to zoos.

Unfortunately, Colombia does not have the finance or resources for many of these options, and there are also serious ethical concerns on how to treat the animals.

Pablo Escobar has left a strange and controversial legacy in Colombia; to many he is a violent, drug dealing, criminal gangster who destabilised the region and caused death and corruption, to others he is a ‘Robin Hood’ character who battled a corrupt government and gave generously to poor people, personally funding schools and hospitals. The hippopotamus population he has left behind in his country is as fascinating and controversial as the man himself.

Colombia has the highest number of terrestrial mammal species of any country in the world and now hippos can join the list, at least until someone can figure out what to do with them!

Much love,

-Nick

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[Video] Naughty Elephant

At last we have a video uploaded to YouTube!

If you want to keep up with the story make sure you check the two first parts:


Our time and bandwidth are quite limited around here but after a few tries we managed to finish gathering the “best moments” of the big African elephant around the camp and upload it. Unfortunately most of the best parts were on photos only.

Even though I have a recording camera, the batteries I got months ago are the worst possible quality and most of the times the camera won’t even turn on… Because of that I missed many cool situations. On top of that, the closest village is over a 2 hour round trip and we only get to go there if it’s really necessary. To put it into perspective, the last time I went there was around 6 weeks ago…

Without further ado, here’s the video. Enjoy!




~Sofia.


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