Premieres Wednesday, April 6 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), pbs.org/nature and the PBS Video app
From Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, an old, battle-scarred hippo bull has an incredible story to tell. Previously hippos were almost always misunderstood because their secret life happens beneath the water and under the cover of darkness. This tale imagines a story of 35 years from when the hippo was a vulnerable orphan to the ultimate battle that crowns him king decades later. From birth to exile to redemption, follow the life of the “Hippo King” and discover the true character of one of Earth’s largest land mammals.
- Nile crocodile
- Egyptian goose
- Thornicroft’s giraffe
- African elephant
- Spotted hyena
- Vervet monkey
- Puku antelope
Short TV Listing: Discover the true character of one of the planet’s largest land mammals, the hippo bull.
Long TV Listing: Follow the life of an old hippo, a king of its kind, and discover the true character of one of Earth’s largest land mammals.
- After spending time bonding with her son, a mother hippo leads her calf into the main pod, where the rest of the hippos live, for the first time. The calf huddles near its mother and other calves for protection as its father lurks nearby, using his razor-sharp tusks to establish dominance with any hippo that appears to be a threat.
- The mother hippo loses strength in her old age and dies next to her calf. Predators such as lions, vultures and crocodiles take advantage of this feast and approach her body. The calf makes a heartbreaking decision to leave his mother’s body behind to protect himself and escape fast-chasing lions.
- As the calf returns to the river, he is met with a challenge and exclusion. The dominant bull makes his way to the calf and fights him off, forcing the calf to find a new home. The calf spends his time alone, grazing during the night as he cautiously avoids predators like hyenas.
- As the seasons change, the calf grows larger, as does his ambition to become the dominant bull. When he returns to the river as a fully grown bull, the dominant bull comes out of the water, bearing his tusks and ready for battle. The two aggressively fight, bite and chase after each other, until the older bull retreats in defeat. He has now won the dominant position and title “Hippo King.”
- Oxpeckers are little birds that clean hippos’ wounds and remove parasites. Submerging underwater is the only way hippos can get rid of the oxpeckers.
- Kigelia africana, known as sausage trees, bears a fruit that resembles the shape of a sausage. This “tree of life” blooms when the drought is at its worst and is the only source of food during this time.
For 40 years, Nature has brought the natural world to millions of viewers, pioneering a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry. The series has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 20 Emmys and three Peabodys. Consistently among the most-watched primetime series on PBS, Nature continues to innovate through original digital programming, such as the new podcast Going Wild with Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant and digital series Animal IQ and Crash Course: Zoology. Nature’s award-winning website, pbs.org/nature, features full episodes, short films, digital series, behind-the-scenes content, news articles, educational resources and more.
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Nature: Hippo King is a production of The WNET Group, Terra Mater Factual Studios, Skyland Productions, and Into Nature Productions in association with Doclights/NDR Naturfilm. The documentary is directed by Will and Lianne Steenkamp. Narrated by Russell Boulter. Andrea Gastgeb and Sabine Holzer are Executive Producers for Terra Mater Factual Studios. Nature is a production of The WNET Group. Fred Kaufman is Executive Producer. Bill Murphy is Series Producer and Janet Hess is Series Editor.
Support for Nature: Hippo King was provided by Bradley L. Goldberg Family Foundation. Series funding for Nature is also made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The Arnhold Foundation, The Fairweather Foundation, Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Kathy Chiao and Ken Hao, Charles Rosenblum, Filomen M. D’Agostino Foundation, Lillian Goldman Charitable Trust, Leonard and Norma Klorfine, Sandra Atlas Bass, Colin S. Edwards, Gregg Peters Monsees Foundation, Koo and Patricia Yuen, and public television viewers.
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