Common Hippo

Common Hippo

Common hippopotamus, Hippo

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Genus
SPECIES
Hippopotamus amphibius
Population size
125-148 Thou
Life Span
40-50 yrs
TOP SPEED
30 km/h
WEIGHT
1-4.5 t
HEIGHT
1.6 m
LENGTH
2.7-3.5 m

The Common hippo is a very large mammal, which name comes from the ancient Greek and means "river horse". Hippos are recognizable for their barrel-shaped torsos, wide-opening mouths with large canine tusks, nearly hairless bodies, pillar-like legs, and large size. Despite their stocky shape and short legs, these animals are capable of running 30 km/h (19 mph) over short distances.

No

Nocturnal

He

Herbivore

Gr

Graminivore

Se

Semiaquatic

Pr

Precocial

Gr

Grazing

Na

Natatorial

Te

Territorial

Vi

Viviparous

Co

Congregatory

Po

Polygyny

Da

Dangerous

Do

Dominance hierarchy

Hi

Highly social

No

Not a migrant

C

starts with

Lo

Long-Lived Animals
(collection)

Da

Dangerous Animals
(collection)

Gi

Giant Animals
(collection)

Distribution

Geography

The original range of this species used to cover sub-Saharan Africa. The small current range of Common Hippos includes East African countries such as Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique. As semiaquatic creatures, they prefer living in shallow water bodies such as lakes, rivers, or swamps. Hippos mostly live in freshwater habitats; however, populations in West Africa mostly inhabit estuarine waters and may even be found out at sea.[

Common Hippo habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Common hippos are highly social, nocturnal, and sedentary animals. They usually form groups of 20-100 individuals that are led by females, who occupy the core areas of their resting pools. Males of the group are responsible for protecting females and the young. Hence, they remain on the outer banks of these resting pools. The daytime hours are typically spent resting. At dusk, the animals come out of their shelters to forage. Common hippos are normally non-territorial, except when in the water. Males of this species can occasionally be observed fighting for access to females or space in the resting pool. Males and females of a group don't tend to socialize with each other and generally remain separated. Females and their offspring gather in smaller sub-groups and occasionally practice communal care, helping rear each other's claves. Communication between community members occurs through a wide range of vocalizations.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Common hippos are herbivores (graminivores) and feed almost entirely on grass, with only minimal consumption of aquatic plants.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
year-round, peaks in February-August
PREGNANCY DURATION
240 days
BABY CARRYING
1 calf
INDEPENDENT AGE
18 months
FEMALE NAME
cow
MALE NAME
bull
BABY NAME
calf

Common hippos exhibit a polygynous mating system, where one male mates with a group of females. These mammals don't have a specific breeding season, although they generally mate from February to August. Females of this species give birth underwater. They produce offspring from October to April, which coincides with the rainy season. A single baby is born after 240 days of gestation. Mothers and their young live in close bonds with each other. They display affection through activities such as cleaning and cuddling. Complete weaning occurs at about 1.5 years old, although the baby often continues living with its mother until 7-8 years of age, when totally independent. The age of reproductive maturity is 7-9 years old for males and 8-10 years old for females.

Population

Population threats

There two main threats to the Common hippo today: hunting and loss of its habitat. In former times, Common hippos used to occupy a large territory, extending from the Nile Delta to the Cape. The current range of this species is restricted to protected areas. Hippos are directly killed for their meat, fat as well as ivory tusks, which are highly valued. Additionally, hundreds of individuals are shot annually by humans, who try to escape possible conflicts with these animals, although ditches and low fences are able to prevent unwanted encounters. On the other hand, the growing human population in the area leads to habitat destruction in a form of settlements, agriculture, and roads.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population of Common hippos is likely to vary between 125,000 and 148,000 individuals. This includes estimates of its populations in the following areas: Western Africa - around 7, 000 hippos; Eastern Africa - about 70,000 hippos; and Southern Africa - around 80,000 hippos, 40, 000 of which live in Zambia (the biggest population of this species among all African countries), 16,000-20,500 animals in Mozambique, about 10,000 in Malawi, 6,900 hippos in Zimbabwe and approximately 5,000 in South Africa. Currently, the Common hippo is classified as Vulnerable (VU) and its numbers continue to decrease.

Ecological niche

Due to their immense size and lifestyle, these animals are very important to the ecosystem of their range. For example, by entering the water and coming out, they generate habitats for smaller organisms as well as create routes, through which the rainwater flows during the wet season. When these paths are flooded, lagoons and side pools emerge, where small fish later retreat with diminishing levels of water.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Nostrils of this animal are located on the head top. When the hippo submerges, its nostrils remain below the water surface, allowing the animal to breathe.
  • Hippo's skin produces an oily, pink-colored substance, which moistens the animal's body and protects the skin from sun rays.
  • The word "hippopotami" can be used as the plural for "hippopotamus".
  • A group of these animals has various names such as "pod", "herd", "school" or "bloat".
  • The majority of the daytime hours these animals typically spend lying on their bellies in the water. They usually don't venture far from the shore. Those living far from human settlements take morning sunbaths, lying on the shore.
  • These mammals have a rather spacious stomach, which can hold two days' portion of grass. Moreover, they can survive up to 3 weeks without food.
  • When lying on their bellies, these animals resemble floating islands in rivers of Africa, particularly when birds sit on their back to catch fish.
  • Small animals such as turtles or baby crocodiles occasionally take sunbaths on hippos.
  • They are the only mammals in the world to produce amphibious calls.
  • Adult individuals of this species are capable of remaining submerged for long periods of up to 30 minutes at a time.

References

1. Common Hippo Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippopotamus
2. Common Hippo on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/10103/0

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