HIPPO Inquires

Translated from the HIPPO1 by PATRICIA REMY

Grandma. How little I would be aware of things past if not for her stories. I didn’t know Gran personally. But my mother told me about her, how some climate activists rescued her from evil humans called poachers. She landed in a zoo which was dedicated to the conservation of species.

My mother was one of her daughters, herself transported to another zoo, this one. My mother related Gran’s tales of life in the wild, a world different from the one in which I’ve grown up. There the “bloat” [collective noun for a group of hippos] foraged for its food. They fed on grass by their stretch of river, sampling nuts, fruits, and forbs as they could be found. It was important to smell out which plants were toxic and which were safe to consume.

During the day they rested in the river, protecting their skin from the rays of the hot sub-Saharan sun. Before, just after, and during the rainy season in the tropics, grass was plentiful and the river wide. Life was comfortable.

During the dry season, not so much. Sometimes the river shrank into isolated pools of water, which had to be shared with irritable crocodiles. The grass was brown and scratchy and left Gran and her bloat hungry. Other animals, including lions, hyenas, and wildebeest crowded to the pools seeking water to drink, infringing on Gran’s territory. As a rule, that did not end well for the others. However, the smaller calves of Gran’s bloat were sometimes snatched and devoured by the predators. Or they died of sunburn and dehydration. Such is life in the wild for the beasts of the field. Live within your limits or die. When your limits become more limiting, adjust and adapt.

My life is different. Food is plentiful. I graze freely on the grass in my paddock. As a supplement I receive nutrient pellets, alfalfa, lettuce and mixed vegetables from my keepers. Never have I had to defend my territory. I am not certain that I would know how. Neither have I ever had to discern whether foods are safe and healthy. Frankly, I am not at all certain that I could survive in the wild.2

Many of the zoo visitors, the humans who pass my paddock, are interested in ecology. I listen to their conversations. Numerous of them are fearful of an environmental collapse brought on by climate change. They worry about the world into which their children and grandchildren are growing up. How will the grandkids survive without their assured food supply, medical care, and communications network?

First and foremost comes access to food. But how many humans still know enough about hunting, foraging and farming? I hear about how the kids enjoy hockey camp, art camp, music camp, soccer camp, sailing camp, you name it. My sheltered existence provides me with an abundance of time for reflection, so, as an inquiring hippo I have to ask: What about farm camp?

In my humble hippo opinion, it’s wise for youngsters of any species to be aware of where their food comes from, and how, in an emergency, to access it. I suggest that farming and foraging be elevated to subjects taught at school. Schools could form partnerships with local farmers and foragers, even with hunters, given the proper safety precautions. How can concerned citizens persuade the Ministry of Education to get behind this?

HIPPO Inquires © 2023 by Patricia Remy in the Greenzine is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

  1. HIPPO is named in honour of E.O. Wilson, who summarized the current climate challenge with the HIPPO acronym. Habitat loss; Invasive species; Pollution; Population; Overuse. ↩︎
  2. Editor’s Note: HIPPO’s worries about survival are unfounded. The late drug lord, Pablo Escobar, had a private zoo including hippos. After his estate was raided, a number of the hippos were let into the wild. They have not only survived; they have thrived, populating the Magdalena Basin of Columbia.  They have become so numerous that there are projects underway to re-capture them. ↩︎

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