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Meet the Largest Hippopotamus on Record: MurBarak

The largest Hippo Ever Recorded
Image by Lisette Verwoerd via Unsplash

As a wildlife enthusiast, I am always fascinated by the incredible diversity of species that inhabit our planet. One of the most fascinating animals I have encountered in my studies is the Hippopotamus. From the largest Hippo ever recorded, MurBarak, to the ancient legends of the “Gorgon-faced hippo.” 

Introduction 

Escobar's Hippos On the Move
Image by Follow Alice via Pexels

The essential role hippos play in maintaining the health and diversity of freshwater ecosystems, there is so much to discover about these remarkable creatures. Join me to explore the world of hippos and all they offer.

Key Points

The largest Hippo Ever Recorded
Image by Dusan Veverkolog via Unsplash

Mubarak, a male hippopotamus, was known for his amicable disposition towards humans. He achieved a remarkable age of 100 before his passing in 2017, making him one of the oldest hippos in captivity.

Hippopotamus gorgops was an extinct species of hippopotamus that once inhabited Africa during the Pleistocene epoch. This species could reach lengths of up to 4.5 m and weighed as much as 4,500 kg, making it an impressive and hefty presence in its time.

The Largest Hippo Ever Recorded – MurBarak

The largest Hippo Ever Recorded
Image by Jocke Wulcan via Unsplash

Mubarak, the renowned male hippopotamus, achieved fame in Egypt for his seemingly “friendly” disposition towards humans. His home was the picturesque Aswan Botanical Garden, situated on an island in the Nile River in southern Egypt, and he became a beloved attraction for garden visitors.

Weighing an impressive 4,500 kilograms (9,920 pounds), Mubarak originally hailed from Niger and lived well into the late 20th century. Remarkably, he reached around 100 years of age before his passing in 2017, making him one of the oldest hippos in captivity. Mubarak was known for his placid temperament, often allowing humans to interact with him, including touching and even taking rides on his back.

In 2014, a group of activists launched a campaign to secure Mubarak’s release from captivity, advocating for his relocation to a wildlife sanctuary. They argued that keeping him in a confined enclosure within the botanical garden was inhumane. However, park officials resisted, expressing concerns about his age and ability to adapt to a new environment.

Controversy aside, Mubarak remained a cherished figure in Egypt, with countless visitors to the Aswan Botanical Garden capturing moments with him and sharing their experiences on social media. His passing in 2017 was met with mourning among many Egyptians, who regarded him as a symbol of their country’s natural beauty and rich wildlife heritage.

Hippopotamus Gorgops – The Ancient Legend

YouTube video
“The Evolution of the Hippopotamus” Source: YouTube, Uploaded: Animal Origins

The Hippopotamus gorgops, colloquially referred to as the “Gorgon-faced hippo,” represents an extinct species within the Hippopotamus genus. These creatures once roamed the African landscape during the Pleistocene epoch, spanning a time frame from approximately 1.8 million to 11,000 years ago.

One of the most striking features of the Hippopotamus gorgops was its incredibly distinctive skull shape. This Hippo sported an unusual, flattened skull with large openings at the front, likely accommodating muscles for its lips and nose. These unique facial features bestowed upon it a remarkably “gorgon-like” appearance, which gave rise to its common name.

Mother hippo and her calf in water. Image by Gonzalo Gonzales on Unsplash.

Size was another noteworthy characteristic of the Hippopotamus gorgops. Estimates suggest that individuals of this species could reach lengths of up to 4.5 meters (15 feet) and weigh as much as 4,500 kilograms (9,920 pounds), solidifying its status as one of the largest hippopotamus species in history.

Regrettably, our understanding of the behavior and ecology of the Hippopotamus gorgops is limited, as only a scant number of fossils have been unearthed for scientific study. However, researchers speculate that it likely followed a semi-aquatic herbivorous lifestyle, akin to modern-day hippos, and may have congregated in sizable herds near rivers and lakes.

The story of the Hippopotamus gorgops concludes with its extinction, a fate potentially sealed by a combination of climate changes and early human hunting practices.

The Ecological Impact of Hippos

Hippo
Image by Lady Bugz via Unsplash

Hippos are semi-aquatic herbivores that play an essential role in the ecology of the freshwater habitats they inhabit. Here are some of the ways hippos impact their environment:

Grazing

Hippo in the national park
Hippopotamus in Chobe National Park. Image via Bernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hippos are important grazers, feeding on aquatic plants and grasses. Their grazing can create open areas in marine habitats. Allowing sunlight to reach the bottom and stimulating other plants and algae growth. This can create a more diverse ecosystem and provide food and habitat for other animals.

Nutrient cycling

Hippo
Hippo peeping above water. Image by Designerpoint via Pixabay

Hippos excrete large amounts of feces and urine, which can enrich the nutrient content of the water and sediment in their habitats. This can enhance the growth of plants and algae, which in turn can support more animal life.

Territorial behavior

hippos yawning
Image by Chris Stenger via Unsplash

Hippos are highly territorial and will defend their home ranges against other hippos and animals. This can help to maintain healthy aquatic habitats by preventing overgrazing and maintaining open areas.

Creation of wallows

hippo
Hippo baring their teeth as they devour some grass. Image via Pixabay

Hippos create wallows, or shallow pools of water, to cool off and moisten their skin. These wallows can also provide habitat for other aquatic species, such as fish and invertebrates.

Overall, hippos play an essential role in maintaining the health and diversity of freshwater ecosystems. However, their populations are currently threatened by habitat loss, poaching, and other human activities, which can negatively impact the ecosystems they inhabit.

Conclusion

Hippo
Image by Chris Stenger via Unsplash

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