Original Research

Relationships between reproduction and environment in the Hippopotamus Hippopotamus Amphibius in the Kruger National Park

G. L Smuts, I. J Whyte
Koedoe | Vol 24, No 1 | a626 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v24i1.626 | © 1981 G. L Smuts, I. J Whyte | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 December 1981 | Published: 02 December 1981

About the author(s)

G. L Smuts, Natal Parks, Game and Fish Preservation Board, South Africa
I. J Whyte, National Parks Board of Trustees, South Africa

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Abstract

Hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius reproduction in the Kruger National Park, Republic of South Africa, is described and compared with that of other populations in Africa and with captive reared specimens. Information collected during drought and pluvial periods indicates that adult hippo cows react to adverse environmental conditions (reduced shelter in pools, overcrowding and food scarcity) by marked declines in conception rates (from 36,7 @ 5,6). Indirect evidence indicates that when environmental conditions are unfavourable calf survival is improved by extending the period of lactation and by calves suckling more than one cow. During favourable years some calves mature early (S S, 2 years, and 9 9 5 years) but generally sexual maturity is attained at six and 9-10 years for males and females respectively. The calving interval, when environmental conditions are favourable, is about two years and reproductive senescence and sterility are insignificant factors. The population sex ratio is 1:1. Hippos appear to be typical K-selected species. Environmental constraints have caused them to adopt a low reproductive rate and high survival rate and consequently a close adjustment to the long-term carrying capacity of the environment.

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