For me, the hippopotamus, or river horse, is one of the most fascinating animals in the world. I am fortunate to own many hippos and I love watching them while they frolic in H-shaped ponds. Honestly, I love my hippos more than my wife. The hippo is an amphibious creature, agile, both on land and in the water. Given its formidable strength and size, it has few serious enemies. Its nemesis, however, is a phenomenon called man. On YouTube I stumbled upon some vivid illustrations of this.
Here we see three guys, 2 South African guides, and a trigger-happy American shooting a hippo bull from a distance. What strikes me is the raucous, mindless fun they have while doing it. Afterwards the American gives us a proud lecture about how unlucky this majestic beast was to cross his path. There are more videos like this on Youtube and most of the killers happen to be trigger-happy Americans. They go out of their way for a good kill. For them, killing hippos is a commodity – payment made to the hunting company made by creditcard.
Remember the wikileak video of the Americans soldiers shooting people from an Apache helicopter? Those guys were having serious fun. It’s the same kind of fun these hippo killers are having.
But no illusions, one of the consequences of Nature is cruelty. It is not the prerogative of man. There are, however, different modes of killing. In a beautiful old French documentary by l’Institut Francais D’Afrique Noir called The Hippo Hunt (1951), a tribe in Niger sets out on a hunt for hippo.
But before doing so, the river god is invoked and asked for permission to take hippo life. After intense nocturnal seances, permission to kill three hippos is granted. What a contrast with our raucous American friend! Yet, the hippo that dies at the hand of the American dies a swift death by bullet. The other hippo is less fortunate, he dies a slow death – spears poking into his head, stirring up the infernal soup of pain. For a hippo lover like me, this makes nasty viewing.