The effects of drought on the hippopotamus

The persistent drought has a serious impact on hippopotamus. Here how to ensure survival and reduce the impact of droughts through mitigation strategies

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Drought upsets ecological balance and reduces hippopotami living space

The abrupt environmental changes and human mediated threats have drastically affected the hippopotami population (Zisadza et al., 2010) in low rainfall areas. Roberts (2011) demonstrated that mankind utilization of water resources to cater for the rise in human population has increased over the years.

The high demand in water used for agricultural and industrial purposes has a negative effect on wildlife that entirely depend on it (Bobbink et al., 2006).

This brings us to the gist of today’s discussion on the effects drought has on the Hippopotamus amphibious commonly referred to as the hippopotamus or hippo.

About Hippopotamus

Hippopotami need to be submerged in water which aids with thermoregulation and prevents the skin from solar radiation (Stommel et al., 2016). Therefore, hippopotami graze at night as a result of their sensitive skin, however, on a drought year the trend changes.

Regardless of the sensitive skin, water scarcity incites hippopotami to travel long distances in search of grazing such that any sense of threat they may encounter results in immediate retaliation. Walking long distances inland makes hippopotami an easy prey to predators particularly the young and weak. With reference to our previous blog entitled ‘8 tips to prepare and survive droughtdrought is defined as an anticipated natural precipitation reduction over an extended period of time, usually a season or more.

The death of hippopotami: the cause is anthrax

As bulk grazers the hippopotami are prone to die when vegetation is scant over a prolonged period of time. As a result dead hippopotami carcasses are not only preyed on by crocodiles but also hippos as they tend to be cannibal when environmental conditions are stiff.

Often times, a bloated carcass typically floats in water and is torn apart by predators exposing the undigested grass that other hippopotami will consume.

In case of an anthrax outbreak during a drought this phenomenon is fatal as it results in the death of more hippopotami in a short period of time due to exposure to spores of anthrax bacteria (Bacillus anthracis). Moreover, anthrax is a zoonotic disease as it can be transmitted to humans through exposure or by consuming carcasses with anthrax.

Hippopotamus predators:

  • Humans poach them for their skin and teeth which is used as ivory
  • Lions
  • Crocodiles
  • Hyenas

Mitigation strategies in addressing the effects of drought in hippopotami population:

  • Culling of the weak.
  • Pumping of water in rivers to reduce stress and aggression.
  • Relocation and feeding of hippopotami though a costly exercise.
  • Collective work as nations and holding wildlife conferences to discuss at length different ways of handling drought effect.
Implication of drought on hippopotami:
  • Tourism industry is affected.
  • Huge loss of hippopotami population.
Fun facts:
  • The hippopotamus secretes an oily red substance, which promulgated a mystery that they sweat blood.
  • The hippopotamus temper flares during dry season especially when overcrowded in an area.
  • Hippopotami calves suckle underneath water.

In summary responsible authorities ought to address the effects of drought on hippopotami population and come up with mitigation strategies to ensure survival during these adverse conditions. Furthermore, diminishing poaching of hippopotami by humans for their skin and ivory.


Bobbink, R., Whigham, D. F., Beltman, B., & Verhoeven, J. T. (2006). Wetland functioning in relation to biodiversity conservation and restoration. In Wetlands: Functioning, biodiversity conservation, and restoration (pp. 1-12). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Roberts L. 9 Billion? Science. 2011. 333: 540–543. 10.1126/science.333.6042.540

Stommel, C., Hofer, H., & East, M. L. (2016). The effect of reduced water availability in the Great Ruaha River on the vulnerable common hippopotamus in the Ruaha National Park, Tanzania. PloS one, 11(6), e0157145.

Zisadza, P., Gandiwa, E., Van der Westhuizen, H., Van der Westhuizen, E., & Bodzo, V. (2010). Abundance, distribution and population trends of hippopotamus in Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe. African Journal of Wildlife Research, 40(2), 149-158.Discover the Suite of Apps for Livestock Management
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