Rare Pink Hippo Discovered in the Masai Mara is a blog post from the News category.

Rare Pink Hippo Discovered in the Masai Mara

Posted by Will on

It never ceases to amaze me how often nature reveals something unexpected; no matter how much time I spend photographing wildlife, scarcely a day goes by in which I do not witness some surprising aspect of an animal’s behaviour or an unusual individual.

We have just returned from a trip to the Masai Mara in Kenya where we were photographing the annual wildebeest migration. After a rather uneventful morning, we stopped on the banks of the Mara River for a picnic breakfast. It was then that we came across a truly exceptional individual… just as we started to tuck into our breakfast, we looked up and gawked, open-mouthed, as a pink hippopotamus emerged from the river! Hippos are usually dark brown in colour, so this individual was very conspicuous! We dropped our breakfast and reached for our cameras.

A rare pink hippopotamus standing beside the Mara River.

The hippo was clearly a young one since it was much smaller than the others in the group. It was also very shy and tended to stick close to its mother. To avoid frightening it off, we used a long 600mm lens to photograph it from a distance. Nevertheless, it only stayed ashore for few minutes before returning to the safety of the river. Thereafter we caught fleeting glimpses of it as it came up to breathe.

The fetching pink rump of this hippo was rather conspicuous!
The pink hippo spotted us on the far bank and soon disappeared back into the murky waters of the Mara River.

Later our guide told us that he had heard rumours from other guides that a pink hippo existed in the Mara, but he had never seen it and had not been told where it lived. We were obviously very fortunate to have stumbled upon it by chance. As we were taking our photographs, we had no idea how rare the animal was, or if it had been photographed by others before us.

On returning to the UK, we set about researching the occurrence of pink hippos and found that there have only been a handful of recorded instances, mainly in Uganda. We could not find any reports of a pink hippo in the Masai Mara.

The Mara River, not far from where we found the pink hippopotamus.

This hippo is not an albino hippo as it has dark eyes and some pigmented spots on its back. Therefore it is most likely that this is leucistic hippo. The definition of lecuism per Wikipedia is:

“Leucism is a condition characterized by reduced pigmentation in animals and humans. Unlike albinism, it is caused by a reduction in all types of skin pigment, not just melanin.”

This is a leucistic hippo (i.e. not an albino hippo as some skin pigmentation is present).
The pink hippo was very shy and never ventured far from its mother.

Being an animal that is so strikingly different often results in a hard life; these creatures frequently become outcasts, rejected by their conventionally colored peers. In this case however, we were relieved to note that the other hippos seemed to be treating the pink hippo just like any other. Leucistic and albino animals are also easily spotted by predators which greatly reduces their chances of survival. Fortunately, hippos are too big for most predators, and this young hippo’s mother would fiercely protect it if they were ever attacked. Finally, animals without skin pigmentation often suffer from severe sunburn. However, a hippos’ sweat is unique in that it acts as a very effective sunscreen, protecting them from harmful UV radiation… therefore it seems that this pink hippo should be able to survive perfectly well in the wild!

As wildlife photographers, it is always exciting to photograph something a little bit different, and this pink hippo was certainly a first for us! We hope that it goes on to live a full and happy hippo life and that visitors to the Masai Mara can continue to marvel at its fetching pink rump for many years to come!

We will be releasing more images from this trip later in the year. If you would like to be notified when new images are released, please subscribe to our free newsletter via email or RSS. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

PS. New here? You might also like The Adventures of BeetleCam and our Wildebeest Migration page.

29 Comments

  1. Aayushi Sachdeva said: September 29, 2010 at 8:19 am

    I never knew such an hippo existed!..great going guys :)

  2. Joseph Kariuki said: September 29, 2010 at 8:48 am

    What a gem! Thanks for coming to my backyard and getting a shot of the amazing pink hippo!

  3. Stuart Hunter said: September 29, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Congrats on your discovery and great shots of “Little Pinky”! What a rare treat!! Many Thanks!!

  4. Will said: September 29, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Thanks guys. This story has been picked up by the UK newspapers so have a look in The Sun pg 4, Daily Express pg 3, Daily Mail pg 33, Daily Mirror pg 27, Metro pg 25 and the Telegraph website :)

  5. BigT said: September 29, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Would have problems with getting sunburnt :-)

  6. Will said: October 1, 2010 at 2:46 am

    Please note: Our web server went into meltdown due to the huge number of visitors we’ve been receiving today and as a result we lost some of the comments on this post. Sorry if your comment has gone!

  7. Moon said: October 1, 2010 at 3:09 am

    Sunburn would not be an issue. Had you read the story you wouldve seen that hippo sweat acts like a natural sunscreen. Besides they spend the ‘lion’s share’ of their days underwater and only come out of the rivers to feed at night when the sun’s down and it’s a little cooler (by maybe two degrees LOL) Great story folks. Thanks.

  8. AerBlueWilson said: October 1, 2010 at 5:41 am

    Wow, that’s amazing!

  9. Laura said: October 1, 2010 at 6:07 am

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful discovery with us! “Pinky” is a beautiful creature to behold…it’s amazing the things nature produces.

    P.S. I saw an article about Pinky and your blog in the L.A. Times today…

  10. Pauline said: October 1, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Waoh, thats beautiful in kenya i thought its an albino but have been convinced enough its not.I think i shd go and see it my self its in my country.

  11. Mutheu said: October 1, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Amazing! And even more reason for us Kenyans to protect the wildlife that makes the Masai Mara such a precious gem.

  12. CrazyTourists said: October 1, 2010 at 9:56 am

    WOW!! How cute!!
    Your photos are amazing, so is the “strange” little hippo!!

  13. Sary said: October 1, 2010 at 11:40 am

    I hope you don’t mind, but I submitted a link to this entry to a website I’m involved with, EducatedEarth.net, in hopes of sharing the story. Thanks for the information, and gorgeous pictures! I’m fascinated!

  14. Amber said: October 1, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Its a PeptoPotamus!

  15. Wildlife Holidays said: October 1, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    Amazing!
    It just goes to show that there are still plenty of new things to see and discover out there!

  16. Dave Wilson said: October 1, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    FYI, there was a short story on this on National Public Radio in the US yesterday morning – http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130235011.

  17. geoluver said: October 1, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    If not an albino, maybe the hippo has vitaligo? Animals do suffer from some of the same maladies as humans.

  18. Donna Bowman said: October 1, 2010 at 2:49 pm

    WoW! Nature is truly amazing. You just never know what is out there and around the next corner. I love when discoveries such as this are made. Thank you for the incredible pictures.

  19. Mike said: October 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Interesting!

  20. Janet Brown said: October 1, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    Amaszing…so awesome…cutie….Keep up the good work that you are doing…To make everyone that we are not the only species on this Earth.

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