National Geographic : 2001 Nov
spring once held hippos and all their attendant life, but today its waters are nearly lifeless. Clues to the cause of this sterility can be found just beyond the spring's steep banks. The surround ing landscape, which lies outside a nation al park, is crowded with small subsis tence farms. Hippos likely would have eaten or trampled crops during nightly grazing forays. We assume that farmers chased off the hippos or killed them for meat. Without hip pos and their dung, the spring died. As for the bones, we speculate that hippos occasionally blundered into the cave, became disoriented, and drowned. Attracted by the smell, crocs followed and met the same fate. Safely ensconced in a national park, Mzima should be spared the starkness so apparent just be yond its borders. 0 Find more photos of the hippos of Mzima plus field notes and reference sources at nationalgeographic.com/ ngm/0111.