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Pothole Escape Methods - Swaziland

Discussion in 'Archives - Yahoo Canyons Group' started by TomJones, Jun 9, 2011.

  1. TomJones

    TomJones Guest

    3 March 2011 Press Release

    Pothole Hippo Rescue

    Wildlife work is full of surprises – and challenges!

    This was especially evident last week end when a fisherman near Maphiveni found a hippo stuck in a solid rock pothole in the Mbuluzi River bed which led to the launch of a 10 – hour rescue mission. What made this mission even more complicated is that hippos are widely regarded as one of Africa's most dangerous animals – especially when they feel threatened.

    According to iNkhosinathi Nkwanyane, he had first seen the hippo in that place a week before, and as the river was flowing strongly, he thought nothing unusual of it as hippos are resident in the river. A few days later, he again saw the hippo in the same place. On the 3rd visit, he saw the hippo having not moved and only in a pool of water ±1,5meters wide and surrounded by bare rock as the river level had subsided, he reported the strange predicament to the nearby uMbuluzi Game Reserve. A group of Game Guards led by Mat McGinn then attempted to free the hippo from the pothole by diverting the water into the pothole and "floating" the hippo out. At this stage, the hippo would lunge at the lip of the pothole at anybody nearby from a totally submerged position like a snapping torpedo, but could not grip on the slippery rock surface to haul its bulky body over the edge. Later, a team of Rangers and helpers arrived from Hlane Royal National Park and it was decided to fill the pothole by dropping rocks and tyres past the hippo to the bottom of the pothole so that the hippo could push herself out. This failed even with the addition of a home made ladder and ±30 tyres.

    By now the hippo was clearly becoming exhausted as she would bite at every tyre dropped into the water and then lie with her head and front feet out of the pothole, her hind legs resting on the tyres below.

    Eventually a rope was secured around the mouth of the hippo and she was pulled out of the pothole and dragged to a position where she could safely regain her feet without falling into another pothole – or biting her rescuers.

    After ± 10 minutes the hippo got to her feet and walked into a large pool in the Mbuluzi River.

    This was a great moment as it raised a spontaneous cheer and clapping of hands from all those involved, including Nkwanyane who was not going to miss out on the happy ending to all his hard work!

    The rescue operation had taken a full 10hrs in a remote area where vehicles could not gain access, and the equipment had to be carried in by hand and in the blistering sun. The ordeal for the hippo had lasted for some days.

    It is still unclear how exactly the hippo came to be trapped in the pothole, but it is suspected that it probably slipped on the rocks while there was still a flow of water over the top of the hole to become entrapped. The dimensions of the pothole are approximately 1.5m diameter by ± 4-5meters deep virtually into the rock.

    What is clear is that unless the river had come down in flood, the hippo would have died of starvation in the pothole. It was also very fortunate that Nkwanyane had noticed the hippo in the first place as he could very easily have walked right passed the pothole between the hippo taking breaths at 5-8minute intervals without knowing it was there at all!!

    Big Game Parks strongly commends Inkosinathi Nkwanyane for his role in notifying the correct people about the hippo's predicament and urges others to follow his good example.

    Hippos are a protected species in Swaziland and are classified as "Royal Game" under the Game Act.

    Note: - What is a pothole? Although Swaziland's roads are generally very good, you may be excused for thinking that you might find a hippo in a pothole on some roads! The pothole that this hippo was found in however is a natural phenomenon. Potholes develop in a riverbed over thousands of years from the eroding action of rocks and stones caught in an eddy of water and which grind a circular hole in the bedrock due to the stirring and flushing action of flowing water.

    Photo credits, A.Sliwa
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