Deep in the Congo river in a very hot dry land there lived an enormous male hippopotamus named Onyeka. He was given this name because it means “one who is the greatest” and Onyeka made sure that all the other mammals knew he was the greatest hippopotamus of the river. The hippo along the river bank watched as he emerged from underneath the water making a great whooshing sound. His eyes, nose and ears appeared first then his huge brown body emerged. He had been walking on the bottom of the river to keep himself cool. Then one by one other members of his group emerged snorting and hissing as they exhaled. They all began to breath the fresh air with enormously deep breaths. Ahit was right behind Onyeka for she had been chosen to be his new mate. Her name meant “A hippo goddess” and behind her about ten other hippo’s began to emerge from the water. Each female had a young baby and they all were very protective of each one.
“Ok now lets all stay together and make sure all of the children are accounted for. We certainly do not want to lose one precious hippo.” Onyeka snorted turning his massive head towards the others.
Onyeka’s eyes searched the area to be sure there were no other hippo’s that might challenge him for his females. He had to be prepared at all times to fight for his position as “The Greatest One”! He had never backed down from a fight and he was known among the other males as “The Beast”. Onyeka and his group had been submerged under the water for the biggest part of the day. As they had submerged at the beginning of the hot day their nose and ears closed automatically keeping all excess water out. The babies had been born under water and began to swim immediately.
“Now we must find food.” Onyeka grunted as his enormous body lumbered onto the river bank. “We have a long walk ahead of us so everybody must stay together. There are all sorts of animals looking for dinner and we don’t want anyone of them to try and get one of us. Please keep the young ones in the middle with the larger hippo’s on the outside. If there is a predator they will try to get one of the young ones first. We must be ready to fight them off. Does everyone understand?” He questioned seriously. “We will graze on the grass and fill our bellies until sunrise. Then we will return to the river to keep ourselves cool. Did you know that humans refer to us as “river horses” and they call our babies “calves”? I’m trying to educate you a little bit here.” He said taking in a deep breath of fresh air. “No one in my group will be stupid and ignorant. You will be taught and be wise like I am. We must be wise to survive here in Africa.” His webbed toes helped him to paddle in the water and his two tusks in his lower jaw were more than a foot long. He used his tusks to fight off other males. Sometimes his tusks would cut deep wounds in his opponent often causing them to die.
One by one they followed Onyeka and Ahit as they made their way towards the grassy areas. It has been a long day and they were all very hungry. Onyeka was huge in size weighing more than 8,000 pounds and it would take lots of grass and water plants to fill his big belly. By sunrise he hoped to eat up to 200 pounds of grass then he would snack on water plants while submerged.
“All the little ones try and see who can find the best patches of grass. You can have fun as we go along but do your playing close to one of us adults. Eat all the grass you can find so you can be as fine a specimen as I am.” He smiled in a rather arrogant way showing his huge prideful spirit.
“All you females watch for signs of skin drying and dehydration. If you see skin becoming dry or shedding very weird pink stuff let me know. It can be fatal to one of us if this happens. Thirst is important so watch for all these signs. To be a good mother you must know the warning signs.” She cautioned them gently but sternly.
Suddenly there came a thunderous sound from the trees. It was Nawvlee a dreaded male hippopotamus and he was headed straight for Onyeka. All the other hippo’s knew about him for his name was known all around the hippo areas. Nawvlee’s name meant “Big Devil” and he was as bad as his name that preceded him. He opened his enormous mouth and lunged at Onyeka hoping to sink his big white tusk deep into Onyeka’s body.
“Gather all the young and move aside!” Screamed Onyeka instructing the pack to get out of the way. “If he wants a fight, then a fight he will have!” He roared loudly.
The two beastly bodies wrestled, and roared as the dust rose in billows into the air. Deathly groans and wails of anger sounded for miles through the grasslands. Blood ran down onto the hot dry earth beneath as they lunged again and again at each other. Huge cuts opened as the foot long tusk sank deeply tearing flesh asunder. Then screams thundered and a giant body fell onto the ground. Everyone held their breath waiting to see who would emerge from the cloud of dust. Finally a bloody and wounded Onyeka lumbered out of the dust. He was hurt badly but he had been victorious again. The “Big Devil” lay dying on the ground. A pool of blood soaked into the hot sand beneath Nawvlee. This would be his final fight. He had chosen to plunder Onyeka’s herd and he had lost. Now Onyeka would take Nawvlee’s herd for his own. This would make him a more powerful leader but along with leadership came greater responsibility.
“I must rest here for a short while. My wounds are bad but not fatal. We will continue to graze here and in this area tonight and begin our journey back to the river a bit early. I will need to give attention to my wounds.” He groaned as his torn body fell onto the grass beneath him.
“Oh my precious Onyeka I am so sorry you are hurt. I was so afraid Nawvlee would win and none of us would ever be safe again. You fought like a real hippo and we are so very proud of you.” Ahit whispered softly to her mate. “You rest now and we will graze for a little while. All is well now!” She said looking around the area.
“Be careful Ahit! Nawvlee has many males in his pack and they may try something. Also predators might smell the scent of blood and come looking for a kill. Be vigilant!” He grunted.
As the sun begin to rise all the hippo’s headed back to the river. As soon as Onyeka was rested and his wounds healed he would begin to gather the females and the young ones from Nawvlee’s herd.
“Watch out for crocodiles too! If they get the smell of my blood they will come sniffing aound. So everyone stay together with the young ones in the center. Be prepared to protect with your lives!” Onyeka roared loudly.
As they lumbered back into the water their huge bodies sunk one by one. Soon the river was quiet and calm. All the hippo’s walked on the bottom of the river eating as much plant life as they could. Onyeka rested from the fight and tended his gaping wounds. All the females guarded the young while the males gathered around Onyeka to protect him from crocodiles. It was a very dangerous time and they were all aware of the impending doom that hung like a dark cloud over them. Tomorrow would be another day and they would again seek green grass. All eyes and ears would be wide open as they returned to the dry grassland. They knew only the strong survive and they had to be prepared.
“I’m so glad we have Onyeka to protect us.” Ahit told the group of females. “We must teach all the young males to follow in his footsteps for our very lives hang in the balance! As soon as we can we will begin to teach them how to survive in the Congo River. Our future depends on our wisdom!”
The cool water soothed Onyeka’s wounds and he walked slowly refueling his barrel shaped body for the next day’s adventure. He was a strong hippo and strong hippo’s are winners or losers. He planned to be a winner and survive!!
Sounds of laughter and giggles resounded as the young ones tumbled and tossed underneath the water. It was time for fun and games. Life was now full of wrestling and learning.
“No biting now!” Called a female as she watched the young ones play. “Biting can cause serious injuries and we cannot allow that to happen. You can have fun but always be alert lest you become a meal for a crocodile who lies quietly waiting.”
So life returned to normal underneath the water in the Congo River for one very proud hippo named Onyeka!
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved
Question: Who won the fight between the two hippo?