Zoology & Botany


Prepare a picture of/book about/a toy hippo in advance, as well as a sample of skin

Say: Look at this animal. (Show a picture of a hippo.) This is a mammal.

Remember, to be classified as a mammal, an animal should have hair or fur, mammary glands (mammal mothers nurse their young with milk), lungs and need air to breathe. Mammals that live on land are warm blooded, have 4 legs and ears that stick out.

(Point to the hippo) Say: After the elephant and rhinoceros, the hippopotamus is the third-largest type of land mammal and the heaviest extant artiodactyls. All hippos are semi-aquatic ungulate animals with hoofed feet. They are recognizable by their barrel-shaped torsos, wide-opening mouths revealing large canine tusks. They have gray, mostly hairless skin with pink bellies and pink around their mouths, eyes and ears. Four webbed toes on each foot support their immense bodies. Their eyes, ears and nostrils are positioned on top of their heads, allowing hippos to remain aware of their surroundings while almost entirely submerged in water. A clear membrane that covers their eyes allows hippos to see underwater. They can also close their nostrils and hold their breath underwater for as long as five minutes- Their legs and tails are short and stubby. Despite their enormous size, they are surprisingly fast. The hippopotamus is a highly aggressive and unpredictable animal and is ranked among the most dangerous animals in Africa.

Go back to the picture of the hippo. Say: let’s find hippo’s body parts. This is its head, eyes, nose, mouth, body, legs: 1,2,3,4; tail, and these are its teeth. Listen, baby! ¨Hippopotamus teeth are made of ivory, similar to the tusks of elephants. However, hippo ivory is even more highly prized because it does not turn yellow with age.¨

Hippos are living things and need energy to survive.

Hippopotamuses, like all ungulates, are herbivores. More specifically, they're grazers, which mean they consume grasses. Hippos feed at night, beginning at sunset, and can graze for more than five hours at a time. Hippopotamuses eat soft grasses and other low lying plants, aquatic and reed plants, leaves, and fallen fruits. Hippopotamuses spend a large amount of time in water such as rivers, lakes and swamps.

Resting in water helps keep hippopotamuses temperature down. Approximately every two years, after an eight-month pregnancy, a female gives birth underwater to a single calf. The mother helps the newborn to the surface, later teaching it to swim. Newly born hippos are relatively small, and are protected by their mothers, not only from crocodiles and lions but from male hippos that, oddly enough, do not bother them on land but attack them in water. A young hippo begins to eat grass at 3 weeks, but its mother continues to suckle it for about a year. Newborns often climb on their mothers' backs to rest.

Hippos live in sub-Saharan Africa. They can only survive in areas with abundant water, though, so they live in areas with rivers and lakes. Hippos are amphibious animals and spend up to 16 hours per day in the water that keeps them cool in the African heat. We need to take care of Hippos and treat them with respect because they are living things just like us, people.

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