My friend had followed all of our girls to a different viewing area and told me to take my time. It was one of those rare occasions where I had time to myself and I wanted to savor the opportunity. I had just left the tropical bird sanctuary and was headed for the hippo habitat. "Oh joy", I thought. "All those hippos ever do is lay in a shady corner with their bottoms facing the visitors." When I turned the corner though, the sight before me made my feet stop in their tracks. The female hippo was moving about and very intent on something.
All around the habitat were trees still feeling the effects of a long winter. Everything was brown and bare. Everything that is, except for one lone branch hanging over her home with a single new green leaf waving in the breeze.
Since hippos tend to only expend energy when it is absolutely necessary, she planned her movements carefully. I saw her move her head once in each direction and then swish her tail twice. Maybe a strategy was brewing in her thoughts. Maybe she was making sure her mate was still asleep.
She took 3 methodical steps to the rock.
The rock was a short and wide formation of concrete that had been created to blend into the surroundings. And that lone rock happened to be directly underneath that single green leaf.
She stopped at the rock, took in a breath, exhaled, and then laid her massive jaw line on the rock. She took another breath, exhaled, and then set her right front foot next to her chin. Again she breathed, this time twice. As she exhaled she carefully raised her large form up so that the front half of her body was supported up completely by her two front feet.
She seemed to teeter momentarily.
I saw her sides expand and then release another breath before she raised her chin high and slowly grabbed that single leaf gently between the very tips of her lips.
She stood there on that rock slowly chewing, slowly swaying, and slowly breathing as she savored her prize.
She sighed once more and then became as still as a statue. She was thinking, planning, and strategizing.
Her left foot pulled away from the rock and dangled in the air. As quick as she could, she took in 2 power breaths and then let her right leg buckle under her weight. I could hear the hollow sound as her big jaw absorbed the impact of body against rock.
She balanced herself with her chin while slipping her right foot back to the ground. With all 4 feet firmly in place, she gave pause to breathe again.
She pulled her chin away and began the laborious trek back to her sleeping area.
Before she left my sight, she paused once more, looked up at the newly bare tree branch....and sighed.
That day was such a treat for me. I treasure the memory of that determined hippo. No one else was around to witness what I saw. I was able to snap the above picture on a separate occasion when she was in the cool water but I have never seen that much activity since then. It is a secret that she and I share.