Man Proposes - Hippo Disposes          - 2/ 7/ 2013      <--Prev : Next-->

It's is a nightly battle against the mighty hippo.
Mother gardens all day and hippo family browses through, causing utter devastation all night!!

One does not go out of one's way to engage in lusty combat with a Hippopotamus Amphibius but now war has been declared!!

Nancy and Harwoood very kindly built us a "hippo proof" bamboo fence, which was so solid it could have served as a concentration camp fence, but there is no such word as "hippo proof" in Africa,

I found out it was the ferns they were after, the good old Pleopeltis polypodioides and as fast as the Binga tropical sun can grow then, the hippo can destroy them!!

Crunch-crunch, snort-snort, I can hear these giant river horses outside the bedroom window, but this little human is no match for that mighty tribe right now, because there is a baby hippo in the family!!

Now normally a bright torch light will deter a grumbling hippo family, the pod would generally lumber off, bellowing furiously, but with Baby Hippo in tow, one does not tangle with them under any circumstances.

Initially we built a corral fence to keep them out; no such luck, one push and the poles went flying. Usually on their way into the garden, they would take the long route and avoid the fence, but on the way out, suitably bolstered with copious amount of my favorite fern, they would merely bulldoze the fence down.

As the lake recedes they do not browse too far from the water but right now the mighty Kariba Lake laps peacefully very close to the bottom of the garden. I used to blame Mr Visser's cattle, but having had the time to study the lakeshore happenings recently, I realized that cattle generally only like grass.

Last night Mr and Mrs Hippo and several aunties and uncles, and Baby Hippo all arrived en masse for dinner.

First of all they wallowed in the sulphur pool in the reeds under the Ficus Laratus tree. Then they launched into a feeding frenzy second to none. Robson and I had gardened happily all day in the gentle winter sun - Binga in June is sheer paradise.

We fertilised, composted, and re-planted, knowing that by summer the garden would be a riot of foliage and flora. But no, twas not to be, at first dusk, several giant shadowy bodies moved silently through the garden, like an battalion of army ants, leaving nothing in their path.

Now as much as I was in agony over the plants they had ripped out of the garden, it was those giant four toed prints IN the beds that finished me off. Two tons of artiodactyl hippo standing plumb in the newly planted garden bed says it all.....

They are incredibly silent despite their size, the only give-away was the occasional "huh huh huh huh huh" but when Baby Hippo got caught up in clump of vines, to the chagrin of the aunties who started to bellow in their falsetto hippo hurumps, it was only then that I woke up to the catastrophic consternation and caught the culprits red handed and green mouthed. !!

And to make matters worse, when they need some "private time", you know, "when nature calls"?, there is no such thing as a nice tidy "cow pat" that can be removed with a spade. These delicate creatures really make a meal of it.... they lift their tails and spray a 50 kg stream of fine masticated matter at the foliage. Now I can only suggest that a glue manufacturing company should take a sample and refine it for its glutinous properties. As the old advert used to say, "Sticks like crazy, sticks like crazy, scotch brand sellophane tape".

Generally when one finds a stray cat or a dog or a herd of cattle in ones garden, the old Matabele screech "Wena" or "dip dip dip dip" accompanied by general human cacophony and flailing of arms and sticks, works wonders. But trust me one does not try that old trick on a bloat of hippos. I tried yelling from the safety of the bedroom, but all I got was a baleful snort and they tore even more furiously at my ferns. I tried flashing the 10,000 candle-watt rechargeable mag-light in their eyes, but the fourteen malevolent yellow orbs quite took my breath away.

Humbled by the presence of this giant almost Neolithic family, I took my proper place in the pecking order and watched in silent marvel at this (eating) phenomena, that I alone was privileged to observe under the fading supermoon.