Hippos are one of the largest of the world’s mammals with males weighing up to 4,000kg. They appear to be docile but are considered one of the deadliest animals in Africa and can outrun an Olympic sprinter. Males are intensely territorial and guard a stretch of water about 250m in length. Any number of females is allowed to join the pod within this area but any rival males have to display submissive behaviour before entering.
This image shows a pod of hippos and water cabbage in a lagoon off the main stretch of the Luangwa River, Zambia. There was plenty of water around and so tension between the males was low. However, it is a very different story in the ‘suicide months’ of the late dry season when lagoons and the main river dry up and many hippos are unable to acquire a stretch of water. These hippos weaken and succumb to heatstroke to become easy meals for crocodiles and lions.