by Shweta Narayan

There was a lot of excitement at dinner last night as we spotted a hippo and funny as it may sound but some even imagined that we may be under a Hippo attack, but as I reflected on the rotten egg smell of the hippo’s breath, I was reminded of the more dangerous implications of that sulfurous stench.

Hippo attacks. Such are the dangers in living so close to nature. Elsamere campus is on the shores of lake Naivasha and is one of the few places around that has not privatised the lake. That means that the wildlife can freely move in and around the campus. That brings me back to the point of our much hyped hippo attack as like every night the poor unsuspecting hippo came over near our dining hall in search of his food and caused all that commotion.

As soon as the guards spotted the hippo, they came in to inform us so that we could see it for ourselves. Almost all of us rushed out and followed the creature, of course from a safe distance. And then Susan informed us that we should not be walking around alone on the campus after 6.30 pm as we may come face to face with a hippo. And when that happens, it may not result in good news for our loved ones back home.

Susan explained to us the tricks that one may use to sense if there was a hippo nearby. She told us that we need to extra cautious in walking around and stop every few steps and try to listen for any sound that may be made by the hippo.

In addition to that we should look out for the rotten egg smell of the hippo’s breath and it was at this point I began to feel that our stay at Elsamere itself was geared to train us in Community Environmental Monitoring skills. I think if we stayed here for a week and try to locate hippos in the night on the campus, we would come out as perfect community monitors with our senses sharpened to spot a polluting unit.

The discovery that the hippo’s breath smelled like rotten eggs made me think of the all the industries from Pan Paper Mill in Webuye to SPIC in Cuddalore that released similar odour. Now to think of it, we were all under hippo attacks in our own communities. But the similarity ends here, while poor hippos attack in self defense, these toxic industries poison us and our future knowingly…

The workshop starts tomorrow and we have two long days ahead!