Monday 8 February 2016

Deadly drought creates worrying feeding pattern in South African hippos

HIPPOS in South Africa’s most famous wildlife park are changing the way they feed as a deadly drought stalks the landscape.

PUBLISHED: 16:18, Tue, Feb 2, 2016 | UPDATED: 16:33, Tue, Feb 2, 2016

The exotic animals have adapted their feeding habits recently

The sight of the huge herbivores grazing on land in sunlight rather than wallowing in rivers and muddy pools is a worrying sign that the crippling dry weather is beginning to hit the Kruger.

Night-feeding hippos do not like to travel far to graze but such is their desperation to maintain an average intake of 80lbs of grass a day, it means almost round-the-clock feeding.

Crippling dry weather is beginning to hit the Kruger

Buffalos are another animal expected to suffer as dams vital for managing water begin to run dry after rainfall dropped by 50 per cent in recent weeks.

You've got winners and you've got losers

Izak Smit, national parks service ecologist

Kruger's buffalos suffered tremendous losses in the early 1990s when drought cut the population by more than half to about 14,000.

Latest figures shows their numbers have rebounded to 40,000-plus.

Hippos usually spend the day in rivers and muddy pools

Although water is being provided in some parts of the park, the authorities say they do not plan any major intervention, describing the drought as a way of regulating wildlife numbers.

While vegetation grazing animals suffer, meat-eating predators will find weakened prey easier to catch.

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