Well I must say, this post was a long time coming! I first heard about dwarf woodland hippos from a small article in a National Geographic magazine, at the very end of the magazine, not a top story or anything. Actually, I think the author was probably amazed that they even published his article at all, what with all the skepticism that these illusive little hippos even exist at all. It was sort of a “Big Foot” or “Loch Ness Monster” or “Snipe” sort of thing. They were beings of folklore and tall tales passed down through generations. Grandparents would sit their kids down for story time, and what makes a better story than miniature woodland hippos! The kids all had a laugh and the grandparents pinky-swore that they actually existed. “Sure, grandpa, whatever you say”. But really, there were a few people that claimed to have actually seen them, and I am always up for an adventure, so I set out to find proof of the illusive dwarf woodland hippo!
I quickly learned that you can’t just go tromping through the woods in hopes that you’ll come across something. They have exceptional hearing and have the ability to stay perfectly still, even slowing their breathing to go undetected. They could be inches away from you, huddled in the bushes, and you’d never know it. I had to be one step ahead – find somewhere that they might gather and be ready for them with my cameras rolling. I learned a thing or two from watching the Planet Earth series and their behind the scenes segments that show how they capture rare images of hard-to-spot animals. I went to an area that looked promising – a water hole for the hippos to swim in and drink from (they are excellent swimmers) and some mushrooms (they particularly like the red & white mushrooms – poisonous to most other animals, but the hippos love ‘em). There was a break in the trees that would allow for unobstructed views of the hippos (if they showed up at all). It took months, but I found signs of hippo activity: footprints. They were near. I felt it.
I decided to keep the cameras rolling and leave the site unattended, with motion detection sensors to turn the cameras on if they were tripped. I think the hippos could sense me nearby and were avoiding the water hole. After one week, I came back to the spot to collect my camera equipment. I could hardly wait to see if my footage captured anything! My film showed nothing at first, but then there it was, a perfectly clear photo of the hippos enjoying an afternoon at the water hole! Not only is this the first documented footage of dwarf woodland hippos, but it also confirmed a long standing theory that they are not only good swimmers, but amazing climbers also! Who knew!?
So, finally, after months of tracking them down, here you have it. The dwarf woodland hippos. I am hoping to see them again someday, and hopefully with my own eyes. For now, this image will have to do!