Move aside panda, we have a new creature in our midst | Photo credit:
Move aside panda, we have a new creature in our midst | Photo credit:

It was a text message from a fellow local conservationist that alerted me to the hilarious news piece in the Borneo Post: “DG of Perhilitan says hippos in Malaysia are in danger of extinction. Pg 21, Borneo Post Aug 10.”

Hippopotamus in Malaysia in danger of extinction.

TEMERLOH: The Hippopotamus amphibius or badak air in Malay, needs the attention and support of the public as its number is declining and the animal facing extinction.

Director-general of the National Parks and Wildlife Department (Perhilitan), Datuk Abdul Rahman Abdul Rashid said there were now only 50 to 60 hippopotamus in the country.

“This species weighs two to three tonnes and they love to live in forest areas with cool clime, especially shady places with swampy land, a pond, puddles of water or a river present.

“In Pahang, there are 23 hippopotamus found in the Chini, Krau, Keratong and Rompin forests and the rest in the Belum forest in Perak and the National Park in Terengganu, Kelantan and Johor,” he told Bernama.

He therefore advised the people not to hunt the animal or kill it to ensure its survival for the benefit of future generations.

“Those hunting and shooting the animal will be arrested and taken to court. If convicted for the offence, they can be sentenced to jail or fined, or both,” he said. — Bernama

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I could have fallen off my chair from reading this news, for as any nature enthusiast knows, the natural hippo population is only found in sub-Saharan Africa.

Ok, so Malaysia has been harbouring its own refugee hippos in Paya Indah Wetlands, Putrajaya since the Botswana government gifted hippos to Malaysia in 2001. These hippos have been adding to their number, as per the baby hippo that was born last year.

Now the question is, did these dastardly hippos (plus baby) make a break from Putrajaya and populated our forests soon after?

Or could this mysterious population of hippos be descended from the pair of hippos that escaped from Taiping Zoo in the mid-90s? Sure, they were only missing for several days as zoo staff slowly cycled the Lake Gardens on their bicycles, looking in vain for the hippos leisurely making their getaway (actual account by an unnamed Taiping local, as told to me in fits of giggles and snorts).

This of course, could only be possible if we suspend our knowledge on actual hippo reproduction.

But we can’t, obviously.

So what is this mysterious hippo population that our dear DG of Perhilitan, Department of Wildlife and National Parks (a real government agency, I plead to you), wants to save?

I did a Google search on hippos + Perhilitan, and discovered that the original article was apparently published in Malay on August 9th, 2012, in the Harian Metro: see Hanya tinggal 50 ekor badak air di Malaysia: Perhilitan.

Badak air does mean hippopotamus in Malay. So no Lost in Translation there.

Perhaps the mistake was in the actual reporting done by the Bernama reporter? I’d like to think that our DG of Perhilitan knows the difference between a badak air (hippo, we don’t gots ’em) and badak (rhino, we haves ’em!), but stranger things have happened.

Even so, the fault also lies in the editing that took place, and as well, for shame on Borneo Post for republishing the translated Bernama article in verbatim in English, without doing any factual-checking.

Another good reminder from Bolehland to not believe everything we read in our papers. Check, check and then check our facts!

So, never mind the hippos in Malaysia, I think they are doing quite well. As will the pandas that would soon arrive on our shores.

Rhinos, and other native wildlife in Malaysia, on the other hand…

June Rubis at the BORA sanctuary, feeding the newly captured rhino, Puntung.

If you want to know more about rhino conservation in Malaysia, do check out the Borneo Rhino Alliance that works together with government agencies, conservation NGOs in Sabah and the international rhino network to save the Sumatran rhino from extinction in Sabah.

Also read: Hope for a rhino family (published in the Star, August 11th 2012).

In another lifetime, June was a field biologist, searching for orang utans in the wild. She still dreams of living in the forests.

3 replies on “Save the hippos of Malaysia!”

  1. Thanks for debunking this, June! It's obvious they're talking about rhinos, but it's odd how it got mistranslated and then repeated all over the world!

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