Find a quiet bend in an African river, and you may find the river hippopotamus lazing there, letting the water cool its massive frame. Anheuser-Busch Hippo Harbor is a good place to spot Nile hippos. A careful eye will notice the small fish gobbling up the hippo's manure that is spread through the water with its tail. You see, hippos improve the entire river community and the food chain in this way. Hippos may look graceful in the water, but remember, they can easily overturn a fisherman's dugout canoe!
Three female spotted hyenas watch warily across the way. Contrary to popular belief, the spotted hyena hunts for most of the food it eats. It scavenges only when necessary. Wildebeest is a favorite food, but you'll notice another clue that hyenas are around. In the grass is a large nest of ostrich eggs. Some have been broken open and scattered. The only animal with jaws powerful enough to crack open a sturdy ostrich egg is the hyena. Listen for their famous "laughing" call, but don't be deceived. This usually means two hyenas are fighting for food, not sharing jokes.
Another great predator, the cheetah, leads a fairly solitary life along the river. Males and females usually come together only for breeding. At River's Edge, the cheetah habitat is designed, on behalf of work for the WildCare Institute, so that appropriate introductions can be made. There's also a replica of an African schoolhouse, where visitors can see how Namibian children learn about cheetah conservation and other African wildlife.
The smallest carnivore of Africa is the dwarf mongoose, which prefers life in a termite mound. Agile and active, the mongooses run, jump and climb around their mound, sometimes with their diminutive offspring. With cheetahs and hyenas living just steps away, why do the mongoose look so peaceful? Because there's a spotted van der Deckens hornbill in a dead tree next to the termite mound. Hornbills often live near mongooses which flush out rodents and insects for them to eat. In turn, the birds warn the mongooses with a loud call when predators are near.
Find out what's around the next bend in Asia.
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