Death by suffocation sounds like a pretty grim way to go. Wanna know what’s worse? Death by suffocating in poop.
This isn’t just some sadist-fecophilia fantasy – it’s a reality for thousands of fish living in the Mara River of Kenya and Tanzania.i
According to The Atlantic, The Mara is home to an estimated 4000 hippopotamuses (or is it hippopotami? – we’ll call them hippos), animals that National Geographic say can weigh up to 4 tonnes, and spend their evenings in the surrounding grasslands, grazing.
But by day, as the African sun beats down, these giant feedbags return to the Mara, where they cool off and… um… drop some friends off at the pool.
Apparently hippos are keen proponents of ‘don’t poop where you eat’, because they instead spend their days expelling urine and faeces in their wading waters, those 4000 beasts expelling an estimated 8500 kilograms of waste per day collectively.
“Down at the bridge, you can put a net in the water for a few seconds, and the entire middle will just be coated with hippo feces,” Chris Dutton told The Atlantic.
“There’s hippo faeces everywhere. Over the rocks. Over the bottom.”
This week, Dutton has co-authored a paper entitled ‘Organic matter loading by hippopotami causes subsidy overload resulting in downstream hypoxia and fish kills’.
Essentially, the paper posits that this vast amount of hip-poop (great portmanteau) dumped into the Mara during the dry season – when the river runs more shallow and narrow – causes water at the bottom of the waterway to become starved of oxygen, which is being consumed by the bacteria found in the crap.
Fish need oxygen to survive, so no oxygen equals dead fish.
Dutton explained that the theory came to him and his co-author and wife, Amanda Subalusky, when they noticed thousands of dead fish washing up on the banks of the Mara, an event they initially chalked up to farmers using unsafe pesticides upstream.
However, they then turned to science, using remote-controlled boats and a simulated dam to test what was going on in the murky depths, in amongst all that hipshit (not as good, but still, solid portmanteau).
As for why this is only being noticed now, wouldn’t you know it, in all likelihood humans are responsible, with use of surrounding lands playing a significant role in the amount of other waste products ending up in waterways.