Hippo munch on elephant dung in western Zimbabwe

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Harare - Dogs do it, beetles do it and, so it seems, do hippo. Eat poo, that is.

And it's not just their own poo they're partial to.

A conservation group working in north-western Zimbabwe says it's noticed hippo in Hwange National Park eating elephant dung.

In the latest newsletter of the Bhejane Trust, Stephen Long writes that during a game count near the Masuma Pan in Sinamatella last month, the hippos appeared to be in very good condition.

"But we noticed them on several occasions eating elephant dung, which we have often seen before and always assumed to be a sign that the grass is running out."

"To my (non-grazer) eyes, the grass still looked pretty good, so maybe they just like the taste?" he wrote.

Wildlife vet Keith Dutlow, of the AWARE Trust - who last year played a major part in an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to relocate a stray hippo that had taken up residence in a dam in Chitungwiza near Harare - said he didn't think the hippos' choice of snack was that abnormal.

"Probably helps their gut microbial flora," he told News24. Elephant faeces is full of grass and other plant fibre.
Hippos eat grass mostly, but calves are known to eat their mums' poo - a habit confirmed by others working with hippos in Zimbabwe. (Hippos have fairly impressive poo-ing practices, if you're interested)."

The term for the consumption of faeces is coprophagia.

Sadly, a ranger working for the state Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority drowned in Lake Kariba last week after a hippo capsized his canoe, the official Chronicle said on Monday. Another ranger managed to swim to safety.

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