Mammal Monday: Hippopootamus?

On the last official day of our holiday together, The Electrician and I went to the Calgary Zoo. I am nutso about elephants, so we spent quite a bit of time watching the four pachyderms play in the July drizzle: yes, it rained yet again at the zoo, and at certain times of the day the drops became buckets. Fun times.

Besides the elephants though, the hippopotamuses really piqued our interest. Foggy, the male, has lived in great health in Calgary since the 60s and has produced 14 children with three different girlfriends. It’s very Maury show, no? Never mind that the Calgary Zoo hippo enclosure is essentially a raised aquarium so visitors can see them paddling back and forth, although that is pretty nifty. We weren’t that impressed that, according to the hippo keeper, a fully-grown female can snap one twenty foot crocodile into two ten foot crocodiles if she feels threatened or is in a foul mood for any reason whatsoever. It was cool to hear the hippos singing, which my bestie once described as a cross between a tuba and a whoopee cushion, but none of these things were the major draw for us.

Because we’re the coolest people we know, though, we stuck around for the hippopotamus poop. Yes, we did. The zoo dude explained that Foggy and his girlfriend are fed every day at 3:30, and people crowd up to the barricade that keeps them from becoming a palate cleanser for the hippos to watch the fun. Here’s the thing the mosh pit of observers don’t know. According to the hippo keeper, a male hippopotamus marks his territory each and every time he exits the water, because he’s the man. I pictured Sherman cocking his speckled leg on the corner of the fence and thought I got the picture. Then the keeper explained that hippopotamus males spray feces, not urine, and that the “liquid hay” (his very picturesque words) they excrete is then flung a couple dozen feet in every direction by their cute little tails. I wondered if the giraffes who share the hippo barn, albeit on the other side of a barrier, ever get pink eye from the hippo manure zinging around. You thought your neighbour was a pain in the butt.

Mr. Zoo advised us that the best place to be at hippo feeding time, basically the only time each day when the hippos willingly leave their pool, was not crowded up next to the feeding area. He pointed out a place at the top of the stairs where we could see not only the hippos chowing down, but also view the havoc when the unsuspecting zoo goers were splattered with poop. Imagine all these people, packed elbow to elbow, flashy cameras out for the intake of food, when the resulting output was what they would surely remember. The Electrician and I decided we really couldn’t miss the fun.

What kind of people hang out in a hippo barn to watch an honest to goodness crap shoot? Only the coolest kind. The very coolest, in fact. Shortly before the hippo hay drop, The Electrician and I grabbed an ideal spot at the top of the stairs and prepared to wait. Okay, yes, we were early and the feeding was late, so we played a little Angry Birds. The ironic moment was when a real angry bird dropped a bomb on my sweetie, but we were there for poop, so I suppose it was kind of funny.

Finally, a school-type bell rang and the hippos perked up their swivelly ears and hauled their amazingly bulky selves out of the pool. We giggled at the folks down by the feeding spot, shoving each other to get closer to the dinner table, cameras flashing; we leaned forward and waited for the real entertainment. Because of the drenching rain, many people had raincoats and some had plastic ponchos, which we knew could greatly reduce the damage caused by the liquid hay, but we were prepared to take what we could get.

Nothing happened. We waited for half an hour. The hippos ate, lumbered around, shook their funny little tails, made whoopee tuba sounds, and retained control over their bowels. Every time one of them moved, The Electrician and I leaned in a bit, waiting for the main event to explode onto the scene (and the people, and the walls, and potentially a giraffe or two) but neither hippo produced. At one point, we were even offering suggestions to the hippos. “You know, Foggy, you’d feel better if you unloaded before getting back in the pool. Maybe just a little bit? Look at all those (foolish) people crowding your territory–you’d better make sure they understand who owns this place.”

Foggy ignored us, and, taking his burly girlfriend, eased himself back into the water to resume his regularly scheduled activities. No poop. I was really disappointed. Truly, wouldn’t you be if someone promised you a giant poop explosion and the show didn’t go on. Imagine sitting down for what you thought was live theatre, only to have a guy with a broom and a unibrow walk out onto the stage and tell you the show wasn’t going to happen because the lead actor didn’t particularly feel like performing that day. Yeah, like that.

I might just write to Foggy Hippopotamus, care of the Calgary Zoo, and tell him how sorely disappointed we were. False advertising, indeed.

copyright 2011:

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