British brothers and wildlife photographers Will and Matt Burrard-Lucas captured these images of the brightly coloured hippo in the Masai Mara, Kenya, last week.  Visiting the African country on the hunt to photograph the legendary wildebeest migration the Londoners were in for a treat when rumours of a pink hippo surfaced.  ‘Our guide had mentioned that he had heard rumours of this rare hippo from a fellow guide, however, he was not told where it lived and he had never come across it before,’ explains 26-year-old Will.

‘After a rather uneventful morning, we stopped on the banks of the Mara River for a picnic breakfast.

‘After a while, to our great surprise, we spotted the pink hippo emerge on to the far bank of the river.

‘We dropped everything and reached for our cameras!’
Racing up to a bank on the river, the brothers positioned themselves a few hundred yards from the young hippo, so not to disturb it.

‘It was a young one as it is much smaller than the other hippos and always stayed close to its mother,’ said Will.

‘It was nice to see the other hippos treated it no differently to any other.
‘The pink hippo seemed perfectly happy as it bumbled around on the shore and other than its skin, was no different to any other hippo.

‘It was out on the shore for 10 minutes or less. After that we spotted his pink head surface above the water every few minutes as he came up for air.

‘It was also very shy and after spotting us it hid behind its mother before disappearing into the water.’

Excited by their discovery the brothers returned to the UK this week, eager to find out more about the rare hippo. 

Will continued: ‘On returning to the UK I have spent a morning researching the condition in order to find out how rare this creature really is and what caused the extraordinary coloration.

‘I found just a handful of recorded instances of pink hippos in Uganda but never in the Mara. 

‘It turns out the hippo is “leucistic” [a condition characterised by reduced pigmentation in animals and humans], and not an albino since it does have some pigmented spots and dark eyes.

‘Usually leucistic and albino animals do not survive in the wild as they are very visible to predators and they get serious sunburn. 

‘However, once hippos are large enough they are rarely attacked by predators, and uniquely, their sweat acts as a sunscreen which means a pink hippo can survive perfectly well in the wild!’ 

For Will though, the encounter proved how wildlife can continue to surprise and amaze.

‘It was very exciting, particularly in Africa, where it seems that every animal has been photographed to death,’ he added.

‘As we were taking the pictures were not sure if anyone else had already photographed the animal or how rare a pink hippo really is, so it wasn’t until we got back to the UK and did some research that we realised how special our pictures really were.

‘This was obviously a unique encounter but it never ceases to amaze me how often wildlife surprises us… no matter how much time we spend photographing animals.

‘When we are out in the field there is seldom a day that goes by where we don’t observe some surprising aspect of behaviour or a unique individual that we have never come across before.

‘Ultimately this is one reason why we find watching and photographing wildlife so fulfilling.’

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