Hippos are highly gregarious in water, during the day and solitary grazers in the grasslands at night. Herds typically number 10-15 animals and get even more territorial as the dry season extends. Hippos lose water from their bodies very quickly and so have to stay submerged (can do so for up to 5 mins) so as not to dehydrate and overheat. They sometimes seem like they are bleeding but in fact it’s a red fluid secreted from the mucous glands (they have no sweat or scent glands), which helps protect them against sunburn and water loss. The bulls control about 50-100 meters of river stretch and can graze for about 5 hours at night, over an area of up to 10 kms and can ingest up to 60kg in a night grazing. Surprisingly fast on land at 30-40 km/h, they need stable bottoms to ‘gallop’ on in the river
Gestation is about 8 months and the one baby is usually weaned completely at 8 months old.The young can suckle under water, through their hard, grass-cropping lips by folding their extruded tongue around the nipple.
Non-territorial males are tolerated by the big bulls as long as they are submissive and females only have bonds with their offspring into sub-adulthood.
Disturbances and courting animals in the Hippo ‘pod’ are followed by ‘wheeze-honking’, which is what is most often heard near a hippo pool. Paddling the tail and excreting, as well as yawning indicate threat and dominance behavior taking place.
Hippo pods are found all along major rivers, streams in the Maasai Mara, but the largest and most permanent are found all along the Mara River. Early morning and later afternoon they can be found out of water, grazing on grasses.
Longevity about 40years.
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