Tampa,FL.- Busch Gardens Tampa has a reputation of having some of the worlds best roller coasters, exciting food & beer events and some top notch entertainment, but the animals and the amazing conservation efforts put forth by the staff at BG is evident all around. So today we got to spend our morning with Moyo the African Hippo.
Our morning with Moyo
As we approached the Hippo exhibit in EDGE OF AFRICA®, my new friend Susie, one of the Hippo animal keepers, gave us a very in-depth lesson about the hippopotamus’s behaviors, and also introduced us to Moyo.
Moyo is a 21 year old male hippo and the oldest on property at Busch Gardens Tampa. Most hippos have a lifespan of around 35- 40 years or so, but Hippos that are under human care actually can live into their 50-60’s. Why?
Well, there are many factors that contribute to the life expectancy of Hippos. Because they are so carefully monitored they are given all the dietary supplements they need. Sometimes finding food, especially since many of their natural habitats are being developed, be difficult. Since in the wild adult Hippos have no natural predators, guess who is? Yep US! Industrial growth and hunting are the Hippos biggest enemy in the wild. Sad.
The Hippopotamus has been hunted by people for its teeth, which are made of ivory. And since the ban on trading Elephant ivory, the number of Hippos killed for their teeth has risen dramatically.
Moyo is just over 3700 pounds, which believe it or not is actually on the smaller side for a male Hippo, which can get up to 5000 pounds or more.
So what do they eat to get that big?
Hippos are herbivores, meaning they eat only vegetation. And since most of a Hippos day, about 18 hours, is spent in the water they get most of their food by grazing the bottom grasses.
At night the Hippo will come out of the water and graze on “Hippo Lawns”. These are patches of grass usually not far from their favorite watering hole. Which makes sense since they spend most of their time in the water. Why travel far if ya don’t have to!
Speaking of water. Since they spend all that time in the water, you would think they would be great swimmers?! Nope, Hippos can’t swim!
That’s right! Hippos actually use their legs and their four webbed toes on each foot to help them push off the bottom of calm lakes and rivers. Since the eyes, ears and nostrils of the Hippopotamus are situated on the top of its head they are able to spend most of their days in the water, which plays an important part in protecting their sensitive skin.
This also means that when the Hippopotamus’s body is immersed in the water, they are still able to see, hear and breath while keeping cool in the hot sun.
So how long can they stay submerged
When grazing and awake a hippo can hold their breath for up to 2 minutes…… but when they are sleeping, they can actually stay under the water for up to two hours!
At 3700 to 5000 pounds they must not be that fast…..Wrong.
Even with their short and stubby legs, this short guy can relate, they are actually able to run at quite remarkable speeds and are capable of reaching 25 mph when running. That’s faster than the fastest man in the world, olympic runner Usain Bolt.
Their elongated canines and incisors never stop growing. The tusks of male hippos can grow up to 20 inches/ 50 centimeters. To give you a better idea on how long that is, that’s about the length of an adults forearm. The male will use them to fight over territory and also females.
I could go on for hours on how amazing these animals are and how incredible the people are who care for them, but I really think the best way for you to understand more about these amazing creatures of nature is to see for yourself.