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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Armistice for Hippos and Crocs

Air Date: Week of

A hippo raises its head out of the waters of the Sekenani River. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

In Sekenani River in Maasai Mara Park, a pod of hippopotamuses and a bask of crocodiles keep a cautious truce. Mark Seth Lender, Living on Earth's Explorer-in-Residence, describes the encounter.


CURWOOD: Healthy rivers are typically teaming with life, a vital habitat for all sorts of creatures great and small. And on the Sekenani River in Kenya Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, found a delicate balance there between two of the most powerful animals.

Hippopotamus and Crocodile
Sekenani River, Maasai Mara
© 2020 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved

A pod of hippopotamus crowds itself into the bag end of the river. They can go no further without leaving the comfort of water which when the sun is high they prefer not to do. There is more river to be had, downstream. But around the bend crocodiles cozy up to the banks and pull themselves onto the gently sloping beaches and the shoals. They lie there as still as sleep; they are not sleeping. They strike, faster than seems possible on those low bent legs and make a short quick meal of any who come down to drink without due caution.

Not that the hippos care about that.

No hippopotamus full-grown fears any dimension or demeanor of crocodile especially here, where they snort and blow and heave like three-to-a-bed, twenty-one to a small and airless room. No crocodile would leave the safety of open water to wedge his way into that. And yet the hippopotamus keep apart from them. They have long memories, the hippos do. Perhaps they can recall when a croc came to take their newborn young. And whether the outcome was blood or only terror they neither forgive nor do they forget.

A crocodile is nearly camouflaged in its environment. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

At night, and sometimes during the day crocodiles crawl out, beyond the river’s edge, over the bank and into the sedges and reeds. There they are almost impossible to see even in daylight. And in the night, invisible. Also at night and sometimes late in the day hippopotamus with remarkable grace, leave the sanctuary of water and spread out upon the near plains to graze. Hippos and crocs. They share the river because they must and cannot escape each other even on dry land. Nothing passes between them. They see each other only as much as they have to, as little as they can. And achieve in these dry hard crowded days, Armistice.

Though never Amnesty.

CURWOOD: Living on Earth’s explorer in residence, Mark Seth Lender. For pictures trek over to the Living on Earth website, loe.org



Sekenani Camp, Maasai Mara

More from Mark Seth Lender


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