Baby hippos are usually born under water, and have to swim to the surface to take their first breath. The young often rest on their mothers' backs when in water that is too deep for them, and they are able to suckle underwater. They will also suckle on land when the mother leaves the water. When in the water, hippos push against the river bed with their feet in order to move themselves around. When sinking completely underwater, their nose and ears automatically close and they are able to run along the bottom of the water, holding their breath for up to 5 minutes at a time.
Hippos have large tusk-like canine teeth that grow continuously throughout their life and can reach 60cm or more in length. Hippos use them to fight, and they can do serious damage to one another.
Even though hippos are so big, they are herbivores, eating only plants. After spending the day in water, they feed at night and may eat as much as 45kg of grass in a single night. Their search for food may take them five miles inland and so they will often mark the path with their dung and urine to help them find their way back to the water.
Today there are only two species of hippo left in the world, the common hippo and the pygmy hippo. Currently, fewer than 150,000 common hippos exist in Africa, and there are thought to be no more than 3,000 of the endangered pygmy hippos remaining. The major threats to hippo survival are poaching (for their ivory teeth and meat) and loss of habitat, due to human settlement, deforestation and pollution. These threats continue to grow.
|Max speed:||30mph on land 5mph in water|
|Body Length:||3.3 - 5.2m|
|Tail Length:||56 cm|
|Weight:||F: 655 - 2300kg, M: 1600 - 3200kg|
|Life Expectancy:||40-50 years|
|Diet:||grass, shoots, flowers|
|HABITAT:||Rivers, lakes, mangrove swamps|