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Marjorie Cortez: No sweat — just find me a hippopotamus

SHARE Marjorie Cortez: No sweat — just find me a hippopotamus

Just my luck. Just as modern science extols the benefits of hippopotamus sweat, Utah's only hippo skips town.

Remember Moe? He pulled up stakes from Utah's Hogle Zoo earlier this year to start anew in the Land of Enchantment. The Rio Grande Zoo in Albuquerque has hooked him up with nicer digs, a lawn, a sizable heated pool and a hip young hippo chick named Karen. No word yet on whether the new couple is expecting, but the pair reportedly is enjoying its summer of newfound love.

I always liked Moe, and I was charmed by the story of his second lease on life. The whole notion of moving a hippo intrigued me, but I was glad he would have such a grand adventure at the age of 31. (By the way, it's his 31 to her 3. It's Albuquerque's version of the Tom-Kat affair.)

Seriously now, with Moe gone, where am I supposed to get my hands on some hippo sweat?

Here's why I want it: University of California-Merced researchers are soon to publish a study on the molecular structures of hippopotamus sweat, according to Scripps Howard News Service. For anyone who spends time outside, hippo sweat has the potential to become your next best friend. It prevents sunburn, wards off bugs and protects one from skin infection. Imagine if all of those bottles cluttering the medicine chest — the sunscreen, the bug spray and the antiseptic cream — could be tossed in favor of one tube of hippo sweat.

Actually, it's not really sweat. It's more of a gelatinous mucus that helps to cool hippos, Scripps Howard News Service reports. That sounds rather sticky and messy, but the way I figure it, so are alternate doses of sunscreen and insect repellent. This stuff has the added bonus of antiseptic properties.

After spending the weekend at my kid's softball tournament trying to duck the sun and fend off a small platoon of mosquitoes, an all-in-one product has certain appeal.

There's one caveat, however. Humans sweat when they exert themselves, and we all know how smelly that can be. Add to that the essence of hippo sweat? Yikes.

I'm getting way ahead of myself here. If science can better understand the molecular structure of this hippo goo, it is possible it could be replicated in a manner that would not require collecting it from hippos. Let's face it, the United States isn't flush with hippos, and those among us aren't exactly the most cooperative research subjects.

"Hippos are ferocious and territorial," U.C.-Merced professor Christopher Viney told Scripps Howard. "The zookeepers at Chaffee (Zoo in Fresno) hosed down his indoor enclosure and let him stand on the clean floor for a while. Droplets of his secretions fell to the floor."

Even though this could be the next great breakthrough in skin care, I'll leave the "secretion collection" to the professionals. I get nervous driving my car around 18-wheelers and big hulking SUVs, let alone entering an enclosure with a wild animal that weighs as much as two or three automobiles combined. And I'd do this on the off chance he might permit me to run a cotton swab across his forehead? Considering that the Fresno Zoo's hippo, Bulgy, is nearly 50 years old and one of the oldest hippos in captivity, chances are the ordinarily mild-mannered beast is occasionally a grumpy old man who doesn't want to be disturbed. We can all relate to that, right?

But what if science can't replicate the molecular structure? What's next, hippopotamus ranches in hot, sticky climates where they are more likely to produce tons of sweat?

Say it ain't so, Moe.


Marjorie Cortez is a Deseret Morning News editorial writer. E-mail her at marjorie@desnews.com.