Maintaining a respectful distance on a safari along the Luangwa River ©Robin Pope Safaris
HOW TO HELP HIPPOS
One of the main things that will help to save this species is to reduce human-hippo conflict. No form of antagonisation or aggression should ever be employed when facing a hippo, and they should be given a reasonable berth by all boats. So long as their space is respected, hippos can be as calm as a domestic cow, and everyone can live in harmony.
However, not many people in Africa have the good fortune of going on a safari, so they do not always understand how animals can benefit them and future generations. It is important, therefore, that education starts at a grass-root level in local communities. If villagers realise, for example, how hippos can help to create an abundance of fish in areas where they are left alone, perhaps this will change some of their feelings towards them. It is also essential that farmers understand that hippos are selective grazers, which means that they do not necessarily compete with cattle, as cattle can eat other types of grass that a hippo will not eat.
If hippos are causing problems with regards to crops or homesteads, it is important that people are educated to understand that there are ways of preventing this. For example, constructing narrow ditches around crops, so that a hippo cannot reach them, is a way to protect harvests and avoid problems.
And if you go hooray for hippos, then consider volunteering at the Turgwe Hippo Trust in Zimbabwe or joining their 'adopt a hippo' programme. Just click here to find out more about the non-profit trust and how you can help to save the species.