New Hippo on Welgevonden

By Phillipa Myram (Assistant Research and Volunteer Coordinator)

The summer of 2015/2016 brought very little rainfall and subsequently the country suffered widespread drought. Nature inevitably suffered and responded as the veld dried up with little poor quality vegetation for browsing/grazing and more specifically, minimal water available for animals such as hippopotamus to live in.

One region of South Africa that was particularly hard hit was the Lowveld, with widespread media documentation of animals dying in large numbers, particularly hippo in the Kruger National Park and surrounding areas.

Welgevonden had only three hippos and have been looking for suitable additional animals for some time now. The conditions in the Lowveld were ideal for the capture of hippo and gave wildlife managers an option to reduce the hippo numbers. Eventually the correct groupings of hippo were caught and on their way to Welgevonden.

On the day they arrived the half full dams on Welgevonden were treated to a heavy down pour which resulted in them starting to overflow for the first time during the rainy season. The arrival of the hippo could not have been at a better time. The animals, from the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, one adult bull, three adult females and a sub-adult female arrived after a heavy downpour, keeping them cool on their journey through the reserve to Leopard Dam where they were released.

The bull and two of the cows had a smooth release, heading straight to the dam after the crates was opened, but one cow was still a little drowsy, and subsequently took her calf for a stumbled detour between the on-looking vehicles. After circling one of the game viewers she eventually led her calf to the water – and everyone on the vehicles heaved a sigh of relief!

Since their release, the hippos have made their home in and around Rhino Dam moving up to Leopard Dam occasionally. They have become a regular tourist attraction and have relaxed and settled in well.

Photos by Jonathan Swart.