The Hippo: Forgotten Animal of the Great Migration

Written by Thomson Safaris

The Great Migration is one of nature’s greatest spectacles – thousands of hoofed animals driven by instinct and weather patterns make an annual circuit around the Serengeti in search of food. Nothing stops them, not even the perils of the Mara River with its powerful currents and hungry crocodiles hidden stealthily beneath the water’s surface plotting their attacks.

If you are lucky to witness a river crossing, you will expect to see usual players: wildebeests, zebras and crocodiles. What about another resident of the river, the hippo? Although they don’t have top billing in the grand river crossing production, don’t discount these giant vegetarians; they are considered one of the most deadly animals in Africa and could prove to be a formidable opponent of the crocodile. If they wanted to make a splash, they certainly could!

hippo and great migrationHippo on banks of Mara River
Photo: Thomson Safaris guest, Ed Lifmann

Hippos are known as one of the most aggressive mammals. You wouldn’t expect these massive creatures, with their razor sharp tusks, to perform random acts of kindness but in a few, rare documented occasions; hippos have acted as river crossing guards during the Great Migration. One hippo was sighted nudging a zebra foal across the strong currents to the safety of the river bank, another tried to revive a young impala after being attacked by a crocodile, and one of our guests, Keeley Kennahan, witnessed a hippo make several attempts to interfere with a crocodile who had a wildebeest in its jaws.

No one is certain as to why hippos have these benevolent tendencies but when they do, they certainly take steal the show!