Written by: Jackie Badenhorst of Wild Africa Photography
Coprophagy is the consumption of faeces. Thankfully this is exclusively kept to the animal world.
On a recent game drive around Pilanesberg Game Reserve I witnessed this behaviour firsthand. Allocoprophagy is the consumption of another individuals faeces – in this case a baby hippo eating what is presumably its mothers dung. This behaviour is evident in many vertebrates from rabbits through to pigs.
Hippopotamus calves will eat the faeces of their mother in order to obtain a bacteria required to digest the grass they eat. These bacteria do not exist in their digestive tract when they are born. Without this bacteria in the stomachs of the young hippos are unable to obtain any of the necessary nutrients they require to survive.
This baby hippo would grab a pile of dung, fling it into the air thereby breaking it up into smaller manageable pieces and happily munch on it. It then joined the rest of the pod and basking in the warm winter sun.