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MASAI MARA NATIONAL WILDLIFE RESERVE, Kenya – As I sit sipping my robust Kenyan coffee and sucking on a fresh apple-mango in the open-air dining area of the plush Mara Simba Lodge, I gaze out over the Tarek River at the Serengeti plains growing golden in the African sunrise.

Vultures, falcons, eagles and malibu storks spiral gracefully on rising thermals. A cheetah stretches lazily and surveys the vast herds of wildebeest and zebra which stretch to the horizon. Giraffe nibble at tree-top breakfast bars. Lions yawn over last night’s kill, meat-drunk in the morning haze.

Hippo triviaWith all of Africa’s wild splendor spread out before me, I stop to ponder a moment over one of life’s little mysteries.

How is it that hippos can actually fart out of their mouths?

It’s a scientific fact, pointed out to us by our safari driver, Jeremiah. Of all the fascinating things one could know about Africa’s fascinating wildlife, why did we have to know this?

I guess ol’ Jeremiah, veteran safari guide and, given to being a bit on the windy side himself, ought to know. This was unsettling to me.

I knew that hippos were very dangerous, but now I knew that there was no limit to their savagery. In fact, I laid awake last night, totally absorbed by my newfound fear, awe, respect, and, dare I say it, admiration for the natural world and for the hippopotamus in particular.

I also wondered, having been blessed with this God-given natural ability, why no hippo has ever held political office in the U.S. Is it because it’s so hard for Kenyans to obtain a visa for the U.S.?

I mean, this “gift of gab” would make any hippo a prime candidate for any tribal office on the rez, at the very least.

I also couldn’t sleep because, as if on cue, there were several hippopotami in the river below our room last night, seemingly determined to prove Jeremiah’s point.

Hippos have no shame. Hippos, proud in their ability, actually organize in the middle of the night to hold flatulence parties.

There was one such party below our window at 3 a.m. And I’m talking wall-shaking, window-rattling, fine-china-busting, teenage-car-stereo-thumping noise levels.

OK, look, I’m sorry to start your morning like this, having to read about hippos and their bodily functions and all, but who else is going to inform you about this kind of stuff?

Great migrationsCertainly you won’t find this kind of amazing wildlife information in any other newspaper. I bet you wouldn’t even find it in National Geographic. I mean, think about it, hippos definitely put the “wild” in Africa’s “wildlife.” With their built-in boomboxes, hippos are the reason for the ferocity of the lion, and the nervous timidity of the gazelle and the impala. With hippos around, THEY NEVER GET ANY FREAKIN’ SLEEP!

Hippopotamus gas is the reason why millions of zebra and wildebeest join in the famous Great Migration of the Serengeti. Migration of wildebeest, or gnu, is one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on earth. Scientists have wondered, for YEARS, just what it is that stimulates the gnus to embark upon these arduous marches. Well of course!

They’re on the move to find a place where they can get a decent night’s sleep!

You would’ve never known this had you not read today’s column, and that’s why you can always count on me for gnus you can use.

John Potter can be reached at 657-1482 or at