By John P. Mbonde
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Mathews Bookstore & Stationers.
First Edition, 1972. Revised Edition, 2004.
Paperback. 45 pages.
ISBN 9987 602 29 0
This is a partially true story (based on the well known Swahili story Hadithi ya Kiboko Hugo) of the famous hippopotamus who really lived in salt water at Kurasini Creek, south of Dar es Salaam city during the 1960s and who was the centre of tourists’ attraction. The author, John P. Mbonde in his capacity as a scoutmaster and a Headmaster of Mzimuni Middle School, Dar es Salaam, camped at Kurasini in an effort of saving both the rice and Hugo the Hippo who invaded the rice fields. The scouts built a fence around the fields.
In this delightful and exciting tale, Mbonde looks at the problems of wildlife conservation in Africa from the point of view of a lovable hippo called Hugo who cannot understand why the local farmers object when he invades their rice fields. The author begins by explaining how this hippo got his name and the origin of the hippo’s family life. However, this rare species to live in salt water of Indian Ocean had some friends such as the birds and the ocean fish whom we encounter in the dialogue. Furthermore, we see leaders from different institutions who came up generously in support of the scouts’ unique spirit to save the hippo. For instance, the local and foreign media gave a wide publicity to this event. Although Hugo the Hippo died couple of years ago, his history is equally relevant today, taking in consideration the importance of wildlife in Tanzania under the auspicious of TANAPA (Tanzania National Parks).
The story has smoothly interwoven a direct quotation from President Julius Kambarage Nyerere’s important Arusha Manifesto on the conservation of wildlife in Africa that he delivered in September, 1961:
The survival of our wildlife is a matter of grave concern to all of us in Africa. These wild creatures amid the wild places they inhabit are not only important s a source of wonder and inspiration, but are an integral part of our natural resources and our future livelihood and well being. In accepting the trusteeship of our wildlife we solemnly declare that we will do everything in our power to make sure that our children’s grandchildren will be able to enjoy this rich and precious inheritance. The conservation of wildlife and wild places calls for specialist knowledge, trained manpower and money, and we look to other nations to cooperate in this important task…the success or failure of which not only effects the continent of Africa but the rest of the world as well (pp. 23-24).
The story is told in combination of narrative and dialogue. The later is practically suitable for the reading aloud in class, and gives plenty of practice in the contracted forms that are so much a part of spoken English. The book is a very useful supplementary reader for those who learn and teach English as a second language. The author has written many children’s books in Swahili. Some few basic questions at the end of the story can be very useful for the readers to remind themselves of what they have read.