By Alex Jones
THIS DAREDEVIL British photographer snapped a breath-taking encounter with the world’s deadliest mammal bearing its fearsome teeth and jaws– but managed to stay safe thanks to his safari vehicle and a fortunately positioned termite mound.
An engrossing photo captures a sex-starved, incandescent hippopotamus roaring at the camera in order to establish his dominance. Other striking shots include another hippo showing off its teeth as it opens its gaping jaws towards the sky and five wary beasts suspiciously eyeing the camera as they peek out of the water.
Hippopotamuses are responsible for over 500 deaths a year – far more than lions, tigers or bears. Wildlife photographer Dale Morris (46), who took these remarkable photos in Ok
“Don’t ever get between a hippo and water, because that’s how your story ends,” warns Morris, who used to work as a zookeeper in the UK before travelling the world as a photojournalist.
“They’re not nice animals. They may look large and cumbersome but they’re deadly – they really aren’t nice to each other, especially the males. Look at this guy in the photo, he’s so pissed off. He’s sitting in a big pool by himself with no females around and then suddenly I turn up in my big, loud truck and start taking photos of him. I wanted a nice low angle shot so I got out of the truck and ducked behind a termite mound to get the photo – if that mound hadn’t been there there’s no way I’d have risked getting out. This shot is pretty unique as I got eye level with him – that is not advisable with an angry hippo!
“Basically a male a hippo wants to be as big as possible and sit in a big pool of water surrounded by female hippos and lots of food – that’s a nice life for it. This sex-starved, hungry hippo didn’t have any of that – he was in a terrible mood and let me know it.”
Morris, who has lived in South Africa for 15 years and spent the 12 prior to that travelling to every continent, says he is particularly wary of hippos, despite shooting a vast range of potentially lethal animals.
“They’re amazing animals but they are undoubtedly scary,” he continues.
“I do a bit of canoeing and it’s always spotting a hippo that makes me twitch, not the crocodiles or whatever.
“People tend to think of them as cuddly herbivores but they are huge, and they’re mean animals. Same goes for elephants. You do not want to mess around with them!
“Especially the one in this shot, he looks like he needs quite a bit of dental work.”
Hippopotamuses are huge creatures, which can weigh up to four tonnes, that are capable of running and swimming at speeds similar to humans. They are predominantly based in sub-Saharan Africa where their population figures are sadly dwindling.
The entire region is undergoing a terrible drought at present, and though there are still areas of the Okavango Delta which have not been unduly affected, dozens of hippos have lost their lives.
Hippopotamuses – Greek for ‘river horse’ – ideally spend around 16 hours a day in water with only their eyes and nostril poking above the surface. When basking on land the colossal creatures secrete an oily red substance, which gave rise to the myth that they sweat blood. The liquid is actually a skin moistener and sunblock that may also provide protection against germs.