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informative and entertaining E-Mails:
"I know that some of you believe that I am sitting at the hotel bar in Libreville, the Capital city of the Gabonese Republic, and making up these fantastic stories that are being printed in the Princess Noor Appreciation Society's Newsletters.
Well, in the grand tradition of Baron Karl Friedrich Hieronymus von Münchhausen, whose writings achieved universal popularity as a monument of methodical lying unparalleled in literature, I will continue with these narratives.
Bye the way, Gabon is a very nice place to visit. Politically stable under it's 196l constitution. Rich in natural resources, including petroleum, manganese, uranium and timber.
Unlike many African countries, Gabon is relatively underpopulated. It has a large corps of well educated people. Plans for future economic deveolpment revolve around expanding the country's infrastructure, notably the TransGabon Railway and a national highway network, as well as attracting foreign investment.
These facts, however interesting, are taking us away from our Safari through the African bush......the old Africa.
yes, let us go back there!
Approaching dusk, our heavily laden canoe was slicing noiselessly through the waters of the mighty ogooué River. We were about a mile from camp and desirous of some solid sleep after the disconcerting events of the last two days.(I mentioned the Gorilla and Lion episodes in previous E-Mails).
Consequently, we were delighted at the prospect of returning to the relative comfort of our base camp, when, turning a sharp bend in the river we came upon a huge BULL HIPPOPOTAMUS lazily splashing around in the water.
Our hearts jumped into our mouths when it became obvious that he was very much aware of our unwelcome intrusion. With head down, he charged our canoe, striking the flimsy craft with his forehead.
The butt was so violent as to tilt one of the boatmen out into the river, while the rest of us sprang to shore, which was only about ten yards off; the beast looking all the time at the canoe, as if to ascertain what mischief it had done.
That was a close call, indeed !
Incidentally, in point of ugliness the Hippopotamus, or River-Horse, as it has also very inappropriately been named, might compete with the Rhinoceros itself.Its shapeless carcass rests upon short and disproportioned legs, and, with its vast belly almost trailing upon the ground, it may not inaptly be likened to an overgrown 'prize pig'.
It's immensely large head has each jaw armed with two formidable tusks, those in the lower, which are always the largest, attaining at times two feet in length; and the inside of the mouth is said to resemble a mass of butcher's meat.
The eyes which are placed in prominences like the garret windows of a Dutch house, the nostrils, and ears, are all on the same plane, on the upper level of the head, so that the unwieldy monster, when immersed in its favorite element, is able to draw breath, and to use three senses at once for hours together, without exposing more than its snout.
The hide, which is upwards of an inch and a half in thickness, and of a pinkish brown colour, clouded and freckled with a darker tint, is destitute of covering, excepting a few scattered hairs on the muzzle, the edges of the ears and tail.
Though generally mild and inoffensive, it is not to be wondered at; that a creature like this, which when full grown attains a length of eleven or twelve feet, and nearly the same colossal girth, affords a truly appalling spectacle when enraged; and that a nervous person, such as myself, may well lose his presence of mind when suddenly brought into contact with the gaping monster.
Hippos are best known for wallowing in mud, and causing more human deaths in Africa than any other big-game safari animal.
But while their general sanitary habits leave much to be desired, hippos and humans actually share a common personal grooming bond. Researchers have discovered that the large semi-aquatic animals use sunscreen to protect their skin from burning.
The difference is that the sunscreen a hippopotamus applies is natural.
Researchers found that the peculiar red sweat hippos secrete contains pigments that act as a sun block. One of them also serves as an antibiotic, warding off harmful bacteria.
Hippo sweat is colourless at first, but quickly undergoes chemical changes that turn it red and then brown when the animal perspires. The orange and red pigments responsible for this colour reaction were found to have unusual properties when analysed by a team of Japanese scientists.
Both pigments were found to be highly unstable when isolated, the researchers reported in the journal Nature. An unknown property of the thick mucus in which they were suspended seemed to prevent them transforming into solids.
The scientists, led by Kimiko Hashimoto, from Kyoto Pharmaceutical University, wrote: "The unstable red and orange pigments turn out to be non-benzenoid aromatic compounds that are unexpectedly acidic and have antibiotic as well as sunscreen activity."
Sweat samples were collected by wiping a hippo’s face and back with gauze. BY: JAMES REYNOLDS, ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT, Scotsman.com
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NEXT von Borgengruft Adventure - "Bat From Gabon"