27 January 2008

Obtaining hippo sweat in Africa while wearing more than your body weight in armour

A cute cuddly image of a hippo

Hippos may look vaguely comical but they are very dangerous animals to be around - far more people are killed by hippos than lions or other large mammals. However they do secrete an oily red sweat that is believed to have powerful antiseptic and sun blocking properties. Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely when you consider that a hippo’s bite is several times more powerful than that of a Great White!) nobody has ever collected a sweat sample from a wild hippo, or at least not before it had dried.

A hippo skull shows a Hippo's vicious dentition

Dr Brady Barr has just returned from a mission in Zambia to harvest sweat samples from hippos in the quest for a new type of sun cream. To protect him he wore a 14 stone (196lb or about 90kg) Hippo suit consisting of a steel-ribbed tube wrapped in bulletproof material and topped with mouldings taken from a female hippo. The suit was reassembled in the African bush, finished off with a daubing of mud and dung to disguise Barr’s scent. Barr would then wait for a hippo to pass then, tap a hippo with a long pole and scoop off fresh drops of its sweat. Well that was the plan anyway...

“I have long believed that hippo sweat can provide breakthroughs in waterproof sun block and antiseptics,” said Barr. “It works for them in some of the harshest environments in the world; it could work for us. But extracting it did not prove to be as easy as we hoped.”

On the first day he was ignored, except by a curious lion and a juvenile elephant, which mock-charged. On another day he was trapped in mud while being eyed by a lone male. A park ranger, Boston Chulu, risked his life trying to squeeze Barr through an escape hatch, but it jammed. The scientist had to crouch inside sweating until the real hippo became bored and wandered off. His mission failed but, Barr said, “we shall be going back to Africa as soon as we can”.

I’m sure that the scientific benefits of Hippo sweat will be worth all the problems (not least being bitten in half by a 3 ton mammal!) but one question springs immediately to mind. Why on earth does he not go off to a zoo and scrape the sweat off a captive animal? Apparently wild animal sweat is rather denser and thus will probably contain more active ingredients,

The things we do (err someone else does) for science!


Cleck here for a video of Dr Barr's adventure



13 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's the very question that occured to me.
Perhaps they don't get hot enough in a zoo but batteries of sunlamps might be safer that the ultimate sweat suit.
A.

beakerkin said...

Most of these discoveries do not work. Gila Monster saliva was thought to be the rx that would diabetes. Gila Monsters are not exactly cute and cuddly either.

The Lone Beader said...

Yikes! That is some skull!

Anonymous said...

Odd thing to isnt it? I mean dressing up as a hippo and trying to collect sweat. Not something that would occur to me as a way to fill an empty day...

Rhonda said...

haha Gr8 post - active ingred. in hippo sweat. That's good stuff.

Stop on over when you can and play my game - you've been tagged. Play along only if you want! Here’s the link: Big Bang World Record.

Oh, and I have some photos for today too! Have a cheerio of a day.

jams o donnell said...

Good question Aileni. Even in a zoo I wouldn't want to get too near one of them though. Still living in a hippo sui must have been hell!

THat's true Beakerkin. But it would be foolish not to look into its properties.

It is. You can see why they are so vicious!

Personally Muttley a day in bed or lying around watching crappy videos would be more my style!

Thanks Rhonda, I'll join the meme tomorrow

Sean Jeating said...

The secret of science is to ask the right question, and it is the choice of problem more than anything else that marks the man of genius in the scientific world. [Sir Henry Tizard]

Ouod erat demonstrandum. :)

jmb said...

Somebody's tax dollars at work or being squandered, depending on your point of view. No one would actually spend their own dollars on this you know, as they did in the old days.

jams o donnell said...

That is an excellent quote Sean!

I would imagine this one had commercial backing. A company that could harvest and patent active ingredients could be on to a huge money spinner. I doubt there are many independent researchers left now. The last famous one I can think of was Peter Mitchell, who won a Nobel Prize for work on cheiosmotics

Ardent said...

I cannot believe the trouble and financial outlay they went to in order to retrieve Hippo sweat!
Good story.

jams o donnell said...

They obviously thought it was worth it. Glad you like the story.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Barr is obviously looking for trouble. Anyhoo he was lucky in that the male hippo didn't take him for a female hippo...


Oh, and re your question re why doesn't he visit a zoo and get some sweat there: We have quite a few hippos here in the local, and they live precisely as they do in the wild, so the same access problem exists.

jams o donnell said...

Ooh Snoopy how ignominious it would ahve been to be buggered to death by a hippo!