The Botlierskop Private Game Reserve is home to an abundant array of African wildlife and this now includes a bloat of hippos! Yes, a group of hippos is called a bloat… a fitting name for these plump, inflated-looking amphibious mammals that can reach an adult weight of up to four tonnes! The Hippopotamus is the third largest land mammal in Africa.
The January arrivals-two young bulls, two young cows and an older bull- plodded happily into the dam on the Botlierskop Game Reserve and are settling in well.
Hippos are commonly found in wildlife parks and in the wild throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and were originally indigenous to the Western Cape.
They were, however, sadly exterminated within a hundred years of Dutch colonists arriving in the Cape. Jan Van Riebeeck himself, within days of arriving on the continent, shot the first hippo in what is now Cape Town City Centre. Hippos have since been reintroduced into the wildlife parks and game reserves of the Western Cape. Hippos usually live in large groups with a social structure defined by hierarchy, with a dominant bull in charge. An older bull has been brought in to Botlierskop to occupy this role and to keep the four youngsters-aged between two and three years old- in check. It is preferable to relocate younger hippos to a new area or game reserve as they are better able to adapt to their new environment than older individuals, and so remain calmer and less likely to exhibit aggressive or volatile behavior.
A volatile hippo is definitely something you would want to avoid! The hippo is responsible for more human fatalities in Africa than any other large animal. They are naturally aggressive and unpredicatable creatures. One of the hippos most distinctive features is their enormous jaws containing two long canine teeth (up to 50cm) which are used for fighting.
Despite these voracious jaws and long teeth, hippos are mostly herbivorous and feed on grasses and reeds. They use strong lips to clip the grasses and smaller cheeck teeth to grind them up.
Hippos eat only around 40kg of food a night despite their colossal size as they require very little energy-spending up to 18 hours a day floating in the water or sleeping on banks! But don’t let this fact lull you into thinking they are sluggish… A hippo can run at speeds of 30 kilometers per hour over short distances.
A female hippo is able to reproduce from the age of five, with a gestation period of eight months, usually resulting in the birth of a single calf. As hippos are not very susceptible to disease, numbers can increase quite rapidly in suitable environments. It is hoped that Botlierskop Game Reserve will soon be home to an expanding and thriving hippo population.
There are few experiences greater than watching the sun set on a glorious day on safari in Africa, ice cold drink in hand, while the deep grunts of hippos reverberate through the surrounding bushveld. Come and meet Botlierskop’s newest inhabitants and experience it for yourself.