I found this information on page 20 of Hippopotamus by Patricia Whitehouse, part of the Read and Learn series. It states that hippos can get sunburned and they have a red oil on their skin to keep them from burning in the sun. In fact, this is not sweat, but a reddish oil that comes from glands all over their skin. It is commonly referred to as ‘blood sweat,’ even though it isn’t blood either.
Other animals have their own ways of protecting themselves from the sun. “Elephants will throw sand on their backs and on their head. They do that to keep them from getting sunburned and to keep bugs off,” says Tony Barthel, curator of the Elephant House and the Cheetah Conservation Station at Smithsonian’s National Zoo. “They also douse their young with sand. That is probably part of the teaching process,” he adds. “Not only are they taking care of their youngsters, but they are showing them that they need to do that.” Adult elephants will also create shade for their young by standing over them while they sleep. Rhinos and pigs wallow and coat themselves in mud, which protects them from the sun and helps to keep moisture in their skin.
It seems odd that hippos would have to keep moisture in their skin, since they spend so much time in the water, but they dry out very quickly on land. Also, they spend all that time in the water, and they can’t even swim! Hippos walk on the bottom and push off from the riverbed to come up to breathe. Hippos Can’t Swim by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hannah Elliot is full of fun animal facts like that.
The Great Rift: Africa’s Greatest Story on DVD from BBC Earth has some phenomenal footage of hippos (and many other animals) in their natural habitats. An amazing show for the whole family.
No wonder hippos have ‘built in’ sunscreen. They live in Africa, where it is very hot and the sun blazes. Wouldn’t it be nice if we humans had that to? But humans need to apply their own sun screen. Heal Your Skin by Ava Shamban tell us about the best things for our skin. She explains the difference between sun screen and sun block, and about UVA and UVB rays as well as what the SPF ratings mean.
Sun is not the only worry that animals have. Saving the hippos and other large animals in Africa (specifically in Gorangosa Park) is something environmentalists have been working on for generations. White Man’s Game: Saving Animals, Rebuilding Eden, and Other Myths of Conservation in Africa by Stephanie Hanes probes the often troubling implications of well-meaning Western aid projects for animals. She demonstrates how there are few solutions without vexing consequences. Consequences that affect both people and animals directly.