Coprophagia!? Hippos turn to eating poo in Hwange

2016-07-13 12:50
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Dogs do it, beetles do it and so, it seems, do hippos. Eat poo, that is.

And it's not just their own poo they're partial to.

A conservation group working in north-western Zimbabwe says it has noticed hippos in Hwange National Park eating elephant dung.

In the latest newsletter of the Bhejane Trust, Stephen Long writes that during a game count near the Masuma Pan in Sinamatella in June the hippos appeared to be in very good condition.

"But we noticed them on several occasions eating elephant dung, which we have often seen before and always assumed to be a sign that the grass is running out."

Parts of Hwange have been gripped by a severe drought. In May 2016 Zimbabwe's national wildlife authority said that it had plans to sell off some of its animals because of the drought that has badly affected great swathes of the southern African country.  

"To my (non-grazer) eyes, the grass still looked pretty good so maybe they just like the taste?" wrote Long.

Wildlife vet Keith Dutlow of the AWARE Trust -- who last year played a major part in an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to relocate a stray hippo that had taken up residence in a dam in Chitungwiza near Harare - said he didn't think the hippos' choice of snack was that abnormal.

"Probably helps their gut microbial flora," he told News24. Elephant faeces is full of grass and other plant fibre.

Sadly, a ranger working for the state Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority drowned in Lake Kariba last week after a hippo capsized his canoe, the official Chronicle said on Monday. Another ranger managed to swim to safety.

Hippos eat grass mostly but calves are known to eat their mums' poo - a habit confirmed by others working with hippos in Zimbabwe. (Hippos have fairly impressive poo-ing practices, if you're interested).

The term for the consumption of faeces is coprophagia.

Bhejane Trust also detailed that it is involved in the operation of 28 borehole pumps servicing 25 waterholes on the Parks estates, between Zambezi, Kazuma Pan, Robins and Sinamatella.

According to its Facebook page it says, "this is made up of 26 solar units, 1 windmill and one ZESA (mains power) and represents a saving of 14,000 litres of diesel per month had we still been reliant on the old Lister engines!!"