The hippo is known as the river horse as it spends its life along rivers and lakes. However, unlike horses, the hippo is the animal most responsible for deaths in Africa (apart from the mosquito), so this friendly-looking hippo is getting the once over from conservancy assistant, Chris Kwando, affectionately known as C.K., who is part of the Peace Parks team in Simalaha. The hippo arrived this morning in Kwando Village in Simalaha and it has already drawn a crowd of onlookers so C.K. is on hand to mitigate any human-wildlife conflict by ensuring that no one gets hurt. He will act as hippo babysitter until the hippo decides to move on.
The hippopotamus plays a vital role in maintaining river health in Africa. Weighing in at around 3 and a half tonnes, hippos spend their days hanging about in rivers to keep cool, and, at night they go ashore to feed on grasses and fallen fruit. Consuming about 45 kilos of food a day leads to large quantities of hippo dung being deposited into the rivers, which acts as a natural fertiliser enriching the riverbed. This, in turn, leads to an abundant diversity of plants, insects and fish such as tilapia. However, with changes in the climate, many river systems are now suffering aquatic biodiversity change as there are more droughts and dry spells. So, during the dry-season, hippo may impact communities that rely on rivers as a food source for their fish. Apart from preventing the communities from fishing, hippo can reduce tilapia abundance, both of which can sometimes lead to human-wildlife conflict.
All part of the work of Peace Parks Foundation, conservancy assistants like C.K. in Simalaha act as a bridge between animal and community, able to assess and monitor the situation so that both animal and humankind can live alongside in harmony.