Fighting for a breath

28 December 2009

By Jackson Shirima - Guide, Chada Katavi

If anyone wants to see hippos in different lifestyles, maybe one should try Katavi. The lifestyle ranges from hippos living in super-clean water to hippos lying in a cesspool of hippo dung and water. One of the most intriguing part of hippo life is their fighting style. While other animals use horns, claws and even hooves for fighting, hippos, especially males, make good use of their formidable tusks and incisors.

Fighting differs seasonally from territorial spats when there's food and and water abundance, to individuals desperately fighting for space when only a few pools are left and there are too many hippos for the few pools.

We were heading to fly-camping one evening and decided to look at the Katuma River, which was by now drying up with only a few pools left. A young male hippo was resting in a small pool of water, when a bigger (probably older) bull came in and provoked the youngster into battle. Battle ensued and the young hippo fought bravely, he pushed the older bull out of the pool and chase him on land grabbing his hindquarters and "wheelbarrowed' him before he retreated.

There were thirteen lions resting nearby and they were forced to give way as the young bull kept up the fight and forced the older one further away. We had to proceed to our fly-camping area, but left the older bull sitting on his hindquarters submissively whilst the younger bull kept biting him. We went to the spot the next day and found both hippos still alive, but the older one had terrible gashes on his flanks but was lucky to have escaped with his dear life.

Picture by Jackson Shirima

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