A baby hippo cautiously moves down the embankment to enter the water. If you look closely you can see a hitchiking red-billed oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus)

This morning we visited a watering hole where a large group of hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius) floated idly in the early morning sun. One juvenile in particular was having trouble getting down the embankment, and we watched the three minute ordeal along with two red-billed oxpeckers who were determined to try to stay on their little hippo. We approached a bit closer, eliciting some boisterous behavior between the hippos along with raucous spouts of water from surfacing hippos. They seemed very interested in us and would submerge and surface repeatedly, facing us directly with menacing looks. The group was highly variable in size and age, including several very young hippos as well as a handful of older fellas who looked absolutely massive. Hippos are the heaviest of the terrestrial Cetartiodactyla, commonly called the even-toed ungulates, and phylogenetic work in the last two decades suggests hippos are most closely related to cetaceans. This clade also encompasses camels, pigs, giraffe, buffalo, deer, and cattle. Despite weighing over one and a half tons, hippos are surprisingly mobile. As highly territorial and defensive animals, they are among the megafauna with the most human fatalities. In their natural environment, crocs and carnivores alike know to give way to these gargantuan creatures.

Photographed after slight disturbance [2]


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