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Hippos of the Black Volta River Print E-mail

Our limited experience supports that of other workers who stress the unpredictability of hippo behaviour. On several occasions lone hippos were encountered by boats in areas where they were not expected (by local fishermen). In no cases were the hippos aggressive towards canoes, but care was taken to stay as far away from the animals as possible. In at least one case a hippo was taken unawares by a canoe while it rested on the riverbank during the day. The animal immediately sought refuge in the water and it was sheer luck that the encounter passed without further incident.

Hippopotamus are used to the activity of traditional canoes. Despite the protected nature of the park, fishermen are regular visitors and the hippos take very little notice of them. The opportunity to used larger, motor-powered boats for the survey was available, but declined by the expedition leader, on the grounds that the animals were not accustomed to large boats, or to motors, and would therefore be more likely to respond in a defensive or aggressive manner. We also have doubts about the suitability of the large Ghana Wildlife Department boat at Bui for any use on the Black Volta River. Even at the height of the wet season many areas of the river are very shallow, and the boat is too big to pass easily through rapids. The outboard motor supplied with the boat is for marine use and much too powerful for a river of this nature.

Recommendations for future work.

Further work should concentrate on;

  • A census of the hippo population throughout Bui National Park, conducted during the dry season.
  • The diet of the hippo and the availability of suitable food plant around the banks of  the proposed Bui Lake.
  • The development of basic tourist facilities and the establishment of viewing areas suitable for use by tourists in Bui National Park.
  • A survey and assessment of the conservation potential of the hippo population at Wichan

Bhima, R. 1996. Census of hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius L.) in the Upper Shire River, Malawi. African Journal of Ecology 34:83-85.

Fabre,K. 1996. Unpublished report of a hippopotamus survey along the Black Volta River in Ghana,

Karstad,E.L. & R.J.Hudson. 1984. Census of the Mara River hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), southwest Kenya, 1980-1982. African Journal of Ecology 22:143-147.

Karstad,E.L. & R.J.Hudson. 1986. Social organisation and communication of riverine hippopotami in southwestern Kenya. Mammalia 50(2):153-158.

Mkanda,F.X. 1994. Conflicts between hippoptamus (Hippopotamus amphibius L.) and man in Malawi. African Journal of Ecology. 32: 75-79.

Ngog Nje, J. 1988. Contribution a l’etude de la structure de la population des hippopotames (Hippopotamus amphibius L.) au Parc National de la Benoue (Cameroun).
Mammalia 15(2): 149-158.

Norton,P.M. 1988. Hippopotamus numbers in the Luangwa Valley, Zambia, in 1981. African Journal of Ecology 26: 337-339.

O’Connor,T.G. & B.M.Campbell. 1986. Hippopotamus habitat relationships on the Lundi River,  Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe. African Journal of Ecology 24: 7-26

Ogen-Odoi, A.A. & T.G. Dilworth. 1987. Effects of burning and hippopotamus grazing on savanna hare habitat utilisation. African Journal of Ecology 25: 47-50.

Oliver,W.L.R. 1993. Pigs, peccaries and hippos. Status Survey and Conservation Plan. IUCN.

The hippos of the Black Volta photographed with a 500mm lens on 800ASA film.

For full details of this project, and others conducted at Bui National Park, see our Final Report.

The Black Volta Project was sponsored by


Supported by Barclays PLC / Royal Geographical Society





About Mampam
William Oliver

William Oliver. Champion of biodiversity and its students. So many of us benefited from his advice and expertise. What a character. RIP.


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