Dominant hippo bull performs wide-mouth yawn to show off his tusks
The Hippopotamus is rated as the animal that kills the most humans every year in Africa. These unique aquatic creatures can weigh up to three tons and are the third largest land mammals in the African bush. The hippo is notorious for its aggressive behavior. Male hippos are very territorial and especially grumpy. Male hippos do not tolerate one another and usually stay away from each other. Only the most serious opponents will engage in combat as this can lead to death. The lower canines of a hippo are modified into huge tusks that grow continuously and may reach thirty to fifty centimetres long in males. These tusks are formidable instruments of defence and not for feeding.
I was driving alone in a wilderness area of the Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa. It was late afternoon when I decided to stop at a large natural water body and take a break while watching the sunset. While getting my camera ready to film a magical sunset, I suddenly noticed the two heads of a male and female hippo appearing slowly from below the water. With only the top part of the heads above water, the two hippos watched my every move attentively. Knowing and understanding the danger of these creatures, I kept a good distance and remained silent. After sunset, the water became glazed by the colors of dusk while the surrounding nature sounds added to a stunning and very peaceful ambiance. I decided to focus my camera on the two hippos that were still staring at me from a distance.
Due to their aggressive territorial behavior, male hippos have various ways of displaying their dominant status. When these warning signs are ignored repeatedly, the situation will usually turn fatal for the intruder. One way for a male hippo to instantly show you that he is in charge and very dangerous is through a wide-mouth yawn that exhibits his formidable tusks. I just started filming the beautiful scenery at dusk with the two hippos in it, when the male hippo decided it was time that he sends me a warning. The next moment the male hippo slowly opened his mouth wide open, lifting and shaking his head in the air, showing off his intimidatingly dangerous tusks. Straight after the male hippo slapped his mouth closed, he uttered a loud honking sound. That exact sound serves to advertise territory and ward off would-be intruders. I was totally stunned by the amazing footage I managed to get right on that moment. At the same time, I realized that this hippo bull now showed me how dangerous he can be as well as letting me know that this territory belonged to him. With that message being clear, I slowly packed up and continued with my journey. I left with a much greater appreciation and sense of respect for these dangerous animals of Africa. If you listen to their warnings and act in an appropriate manner, us humans and these dangerous creatures can all live peacefully together.