As the weather slowly warms up, it’s time to say hello again to our hippos. Visitors to Flamingo Land over the winter may have noticed that the hippos haven’t been out and about very much – this is because they’re not very keen on cold weather and prefer to stay indoors. However, they are now starting to come outside on a regular basis and can be seen wandering around their yard, sitting in their mud wallow or even taking a dip in their lake.
We have three hippos at Flamingo Land. They are all adults; one male and two females. The male, Ernie, lives here with his mum, Betty, and his aunt, Godzilla. If you only see our hippos in the lake or their mud wallow, it can be difficult to tell who’s who because all you can see is a bit of their back and the tops of their heads! However, if all three are together, especially if they are out of the water, there are ways to tell. Ernie is the largest of our hippos, Betty has one pink foot (all the rest are grey) and Godzilla has a missing front tooth, easily visible if she opens her mouth for something to eat.
There are only two species of hippopotamus, the large kind that can be seen at Flamingo Land and the pygmy hippo. They are the third-largest land mammal, after the elephant and rhinoceros. Although they might not remind you of them very much, hippos are most closely related to whales! Despite being such large, powerful animals, they are herbivores, eating mostly grass. However, they are still very dangerous, as they have large teeth, can be aggressive and can easily outrun a human. Apart from humans, adult hippos don’t really have any predators but Nile crocodiles, lions and hyenas will prey on youngsters.
Hippos spend a lot of time in and around water but they are not particularly good swimmers and they can’t float. They can hold their breath underwater for up to five minutes and even when they do come up for air, they can be difficult to spot. Their eyes, ears and nostrils are all in a line near to the top of their heads, meaning that they only have to have their heads slightly out of the water in order to see, hear and breathe.