Follow the life of an old hippo, a king of its kind, and discover the true character of one of Earth’s largest land mammals.

Nature “Hippo King”


Premieres Thursday, April 7 at 7 p.m.

From Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, an old, battle-scarred hippo bull has an incredible story to tell. Previously hippos were almost always misunderstood because their secret life happens beneath the water and under the cover of darkness. This tale imagines a story of 35 years from when the hippo was a vulnerable orphan to the ultimate battle that crowns him king decades later. From birth to exile to redemption, follow the life of the “Hippo King” and discover the true character of one of Earth’s largest land mammals.

Moments to watch for:

  • After spending time bonding with her son, a mother hippo leads her calf into the main pod, where the rest of the hippos live, for the first time. The calf huddles near its mother and other calves for protection as its father lurks nearby, using his razor-sharp tusks to establish dominance with any hippo that appears to be a threat.
  • The mother hippo loses strength in her old age and dies next to her calf. Predators such as lions, vultures and crocodiles take advantage of this feast and approach her body. The calf makes a heartbreaking decision to leave his mother’s body behind to protect himself and escape fast-chasing lions.
  • As the calf returns to the river, he is met with a challenge and exclusion. The dominant bull makes his way to the calf and fights him off, forcing the calf to find a new home. The calf spends his time alone, grazing during the night as he cautiously avoids predators like hyenas.
  • As the seasons change, the calf grows larger, as does his ambition to become the dominant bull. When he returns to the river as a fully grown bull, the dominant bull comes out of the water, bearing his tusks and ready for battle. The two aggressively fight, bite and chase after each other, until the older bull retreats in defeat. He has now won the dominant position and title “Hippo King.”

Did you know?

  • Oxpeckers are little birds that clean hippos’ wounds and remove parasites. Submerging underwater is the only way hippos can get rid of the oxpeckers.
  • Kigelia africana, known as sausage trees, bears a fruit that resembles the shape of a sausage. This “tree of life” blooms when the drought is at its worst and is the only source of food during this time.
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