Off to see the river house

Delma was excited as she was going for a field trip for the first time with her class mates from Aquatic School. When she reached school early in the morning, her aquatic friends were also eagerly waiting in the assembly area.

"Oh Delma! There you are!" welcomed the trio of jellyfish. Delma and the jellyfish laughed and joked as they waited for some teacher to take them for the field trip.

Soon the principal of Aquatic School, Olly the Octopus, gathered all the aquatic creatures and said, "Good morning class! Today is going to be an exciting day as we will go and see a river horse."

"Ooooh," a gasp of wonder rose up among the gathered creatures.

Delma splashed her tail in glee. Her jelly fish friends also giggled in excitement.

"I wonder what a river horse is?" whispered Delma to Sally the salmon as the class followed Olly the Octopus.

"I have never even seen a land horse, let alone a river one," revealed Delma.

"I have seen land horses many times," replied Sally the salmon haughtily.

Delma did not say anything else to Sally; instead she swam towards her three jellyfish friends. "It's no use talking to Sally the salmon. She is always so rude."

"Oh forget her," said the jellyfish. "I don't know why you even bother to speak to her," one of the jellyfish said.

"I just try to be friendly to her," explained Delma.

Just then, the group reached the far southern side of the lake's bank. Olly the Octopus said, "Behold! The river horse! Don't venture too close. I'm not sure how it would react to so many of us approaching," Olly cautioned.

At first Delma couldn't make out anything on the lake's surface.

Then suddenly she saw a huge grey mound moving in the water.

"That is a river horse?" she exclaimed. The other animals were also stunned into silence. Even the usually cold salmon was gaping at the river horse in awe.

What they saw before them was the most humungous creature they had ever seen. It had a barrel-shaped body, enormous mouth and teeth, nearly hairless body and stubby legs. Some of the smaller aquatic animals hid behind Olly when they saw the creature open its huge mouth to nearly 180 degrees and reveal its huge lower incisor teeth.

Olly explained, "This is actually called the hippopotamus or hippo — that is Greek for 'river horse'. This is the third largest type of land mammal; its closest living relatives are aquatic animals like whales and porpoise from which the hippo diverged about 55 million years ago. The hippopotamus is semi-aquatic — during the day, it remains cool by staying in the water or mud of rivers, lakes or swamps. It emerges at dusk to graze on grass."

Just as the group of young aquatic animals were listening to Olly the octopus with keen interest, they heard a movement at the lake's bank. "Look this is the hippo's family," whispered Olly. The others gaped at the group of 30 hippos who waded into the water.

Suddenly the creatures heard a whimpering sound. Olly looked around. "Who is crying?" he asked in concern. It was Sally the salmon who was weeping quietly. "I'm scared, Olly Sir. I want to go home."

Delma was shocked to see the normally haughty and cold salmon so distraught. The sight of these humongous creatures seemed to have shaken her.

Suddenly, Delma and her friends heard a series of roars and grunts. They spun around to see that two male hippos were fighting. Water and mud flew as the huge creatures slammed themselves against each other. The rest of the hippos watched and grunted.

"Look crocodiles," said Delma in a raspy voice as she spotted a group of crocodiles swim stealthily towards the hippo fight. They were snapping their jaws and rushed to attack the hippos. In the blink of an eye, the entire bank was filled with the sounds of roars and squeals. Olly the Octopus whispered urgently, "Come on class. Let's get out of here."

For the first time Delma could see that the octopus was genuinely worried. She knew Olly needed her help in ushering the class of aquatic animals away from this bloody spectacle. Sally was crying openly now and the other fish were also shell-shocked by the aggressive behavior of the hippos and then the attack of the menacing crocodiles.

Delma helped Olly silently guide the creatures away. Soon they were heading home and when they finally reached the premises of Aquatic School Olly gently asked them to go home.

"But before you go I must say that I did not anticipate such violent behavor from the hippos," admitted Olly, "I had arranged this field trip so that you would be able to see a unique animal in its habitat. But one lesson we need to learn from what we saw today is how lucky we are that we are living in such peace and harmony. Also it is very important that we maintain this loving relationship. Otherwise you have just seen what can happen."

Delma and all the other aquatic animals nodded in agreement.

The Adventures of D'Land
Animated Series

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