Dimensions 1.65ft (H)
Being in the water is one of the nicest ways to escape the scorching sun of Africa. This 2-month-old baby hippo loves getting wet, a born swimmer even if she may not look it. She feels safe here but her family pool is starting to get a bit crowded. There aren’t as many water holes for the hippos to choose from anymore so they have to share which can be scary for the baby when the adults start to annoy each other. She dreams that by the time she grows up there will be enough space for everyone.
The water-loving giants were given the name “river horse” by the Greeks and for good reason. The hippopotamus spends up to 16 hours of their day in the water, keeping cool from the baking African sun. They are very graceful swimmers and can hold their breath for up to minutes. This isn’t surprising considering their closest relatives are whales and dolphins. They secrete an oily red substance to protect themselves from the harsh rays which act as a sunblock and moisturiser and may even protect them against germs. This red stuff sparked a few rumours that they sweat blood but we can assure you that this isn’t true!
As the sun goes down the hippos come out of the water to graze on grasses. Hippos can get a bit feisty. They are highly aggressive and very unpredictable making them one of the most dangerous animals in the world. They are very good runners and can match humans for speed for short distances. They also have an impressive yawn which can be used as a threat display.
Hippos love the water so much they even mate and give birth there. The baby must swim to the surface to take their first breath so are born swimming! The babies need a lot of help from mum, resting on her back if the water is too deep for them and as protection from predators such as crocodiles, lions, hyenas and male hippos. When they want to suckle, they may have to do it underwater where they close their ears and nostrils so they don’t breathe in water. Hippo mothers are very protective of their calves but will sometimes leave them in nurseries under the watchful eye of a few adults. Here, the babies can have play fights with other calves, developing important skills for when they are full grown. The calves are fully weaned after a year.
Hippos are threatened by habitat loss, seeing their favourite water holes drying up at an alarming rate. With climate change reducing the rainy season they are also seeing reduced food options. They are also at major risk from poaching. A 2006 study showing a 20% reduction in the past decade. They are killed for their meat as well as the ivory from their tusks. Like elephants, this ivory is worth a lot of money and is a huge draw for many people desperate to make a living. Many local people are also reliant on their meat for food.
HOW TO HELP
Based off real animals that Gillie and Marc met while travelling, the public will be able to meet individual animals.
With public art, more people will come into contact with these sculptures, will stop and consider them, will take a photograph, and will discuss this with their friends and family. Through this increased exposure, the message of love, family, and conservation will be spread much further than any piece of art in a gallery ever could. It will bring people into close contact and will help them to fall in love. With love comes a greater urge to want to create a change and save all endangered animals.
The sculpture will be aligned with the hashtags #LoveTheLast and #wildaboutbabies to raise unparalleled awareness about the sculpture’s cause across the globe.
To help protect these animals, please donate to the WWF: https://www.worldwildlife.org/