When the news hit that a river that was heavily populated by hippos was experiencing mass deaths of the fish that lived there, there was massive panic. People thought that hippos were destructive to the environment and would cause an environmental meltdown. Fortunately, scientists came to the rescue and explained that what was happening wasn’t an environmental disaster. Here are the highlights:
With all the news about extinctions and mass animal deaths caused by human greed, we forget that animals dying in large numbers is nothing new: there are periodic mass deaths that happen in a regular cycle. The main difference is that these deaths are natural, usually occurring as a means to prevent over population. Think of the Christmas Island crabs. Even without humans, their migrations cause mass deaths.
It Serves A Purpose
The mass deaths of the fish don’t lead to hundreds of dead fish rotting and clogging up the river. The dead fish serve as food to the birds and other animals in the area, such as crocodiles. Life in the African plains is tough, with food and water being in high demand but low supply. The mass deaths of the fish provide food, while ensuring that the rivers aren’t depleted of oxygen due to too many fish.
It Showed Us How Little We Know
The mass fish deaths happened in a very specific river system. What made that river system unique was that it was protected before humans could affect the ecosystem of that river. This means that this is the first time we got to see the workings of an untouched river system. The fact that the deaths came as such a surprise is a clear sign of how much human presence disrupts an ecosystem.
So before you jump onto the “shoot the hippos” bandwagon, remember that while there’s a lot we don’t know about nature, what we do know is that nature has developed a way of balancing itself and maintaining that balance. Always remember that a deeper understanding is necessary before action is taken!