Missing Hippos

This photo was NOT taken at Lake Mutanda, Bwindi or Lake Bunyonyi; photo by Sara Cook
This photo was NOT taken at Lake Mutanda, Bwindi or Lake Bunyonyi; photo by Sara Cook
Out of the blue, three hippos appeared. They became the talk of Lake Bunyonyi, the lake so casually described as super-safe for swimming, with no bilharzia (more about that here), no crocodiles … and no hippos.

Well, in 2013 they were very much there. For several days, until locals got tired of hippos eating their crops and ate them instead.

Then a photo was shared on social media, of three hippos marching next to Bwindi. Then we heard of the same number of hippos previously annoying the people of Lake Mutanda.

While Bunyonyi hippos are the stuff of legends (a solitary hippo was supposedly spotted in the 1980s), Lake Mutanda has a better documented, fresher story. It had a hippopotamus population that was eradicated, together with bush pigs, by the local government in the mid 20th century. The last one was reportedly seen in 1994.

Still, what was happening in 2012-2013? It might not be that difficult to connect the dots: the extensive floods of that period allowed hippos to come from Congo, first to Lake Mutanda and then, using the stream that connects the lakes, to Bunyonyi, passing by Bwindi in the process.

A wonder of nature.

And where was I at that point? Around. Did I taste the hippo steaks at the feast? Nope. Did I go see the hippos myself? No I did not. The rumor added a dash of adventure to my nightly swims, but that was it… Did I at least arrange for photos to be taken? No. I was too busy for all that!

As Miha’s Blog returns after two quiet weeks, I am thinking of the three hippos with regret. To me, they are a symbol of a lost opportunity. I guess I thought I had bigger fish to fry, though I can’t remember for the life of me what they might have been. Clearly it wasn’t anything like an extraordinary hippo visitation, the first in 30 years…

I have to keep that on my mind right now, when my list of to-dos is making me feel under intense pressure again. Last week I hardly managed to put together one blog post, about our excellent Gorilla Highlands Bootcamp—a clear indication that I have been swamped. This week, on 1 December 2016, the Gorilla Highlands initiative will actually get its first professional office, the MYL team located in Kigali, and I have to be ready for that. Among many other things.

But what is the hippo of November 2016? What is the potential missed opportunity that I will feel remorseful about in the future? I hope I never learn, I hope it doesn’t happen, I hope I manage to see my hippo when it swims by.

Good luck with your hippos, my readers!