The biggest surprise to me was the number of hippos. Once few and illusive, groups of ten or more are visible all along two large swamps and out on the banks sunning to the delight of park visitors. The highest number I’ve counted, around 100, was shortly before the 2008 drought when over 30 hippos died of starvation. Although I didn’t do a full count, I put their numbers now at 200. So what accounts for their increase?
The most likely reason is the rich matt of grasses that have sprung up across the swamps after the elephants chomped down the tall sedges. I watched a group of seven hippos half submerged in the swamp snatching at dense wads of forage in the middle of the day without having to budge.
Reedbuck are also more common in Amboseli than any time in decades, no doubt due to the same dense grazing lawns attracting other grazers.
This year is shaping up for drought around Amboseli if the short rains on October fail. With two months yet to go, the Maasai are worried about the ailing condition of their livestock. In contrast, Amboseli’s wildebeest and buffalo are in good condition and their calves are doing well, buffered by spreading swamp waters and a flush of new grass.