Brave Mother Hippopotamus Defends Her Baby Against Aggressive Elephant

It is said that a mother will do anything for her child, even if it means putting herself in harm’s way. In this case, a fully-grown hippopotamus was thrown several feet into the air as she stood her ground against an aggressive elephant bull, giving her calf time to run to safety. Amazingly, she emerged relatively unscathed from the attack, suffering nothing more than a little cut on the side of her body and a rather bruised ego.

The scene was captured by wildlife photographer Rian Van SchalkWyk, 40, at the Erindi Private Game Reserve in Windhoek, Namibia.

‘I felt incredibly privileged to see this. I’ve been in the bush a long time, but this was the most spectacular scene I’ve ever witnessed. I couldn’t believe it,’ the South African said.

Van SchalkWyk, who works as a GP in Rundu, a small town in the northeast of Namibia on the Angolan border, was spending a long weekend at the reserve with his wife Bonnie and a host of other family members. The spectacular scene unfolded on Sunday after lunch when all of the other guests had gone back to their rooms to sleep.

From the vantage point of a restaurant viewing deck overlooking a water hole, the photographer and his loved ones got a private view of this incredible animal interaction.

‘I was taking photographs of the hippos in the water but because of the ongoing drought, the staff came and put some grass out for hippos because they have nothing else to eat,’ Van SchalkWyk said.

‘Immediately about twenty hippos came out of the water and started grazing. The next moment, a large elephant bull came charging out of the bush in a rush. It was going for the grass as well.’

The elephant was initially grazing alongside the hippos but became agitated and flapped its ears frantically when they began to venture closer.

When the hippo mother in the pictures strayed just that little bit too close, the elephant decided to take drastic action. Although adult female hippos can weigh upwards of 1.5 tonnes, the cow was dwarfed by the male elephant, which was able to flip her with his trunk with ease.

‘She landed on her back and rolled 360 degrees down the embankment towards the water,’ Rian said. ‘Afterwards, the elephant just stood there and shook his head. The hippo retreated into the water. The calf ran away towards the other hippos, and the mother stayed in the water for about five minutes before eventually coming out.

‘It was incredible. It happened so quickly; elephants are incredibly fast over short distances. I felt very sorry for the mother trying to protect her young. It was quite emotional to see her go to those lengths, to stand her ground against a much bigger animal. You could see in her whole demeanor that she was quite taken aback; even the elephant seemed like he was thinking about what he did.’

The mother and the calf were quickly reunited but far from being lavished with sympathy, the herd acted aggressively towards her, and she was forced to retreat with her calf and stand apart from the group.

The elephant’s mood did not improve much as he carried out a handful of mock charges on other hippos before venturing into the waterhole to chase away a few sunbathing crocodiles.

The grumpy giant then treated himself to a dust bath before departing, leaving the hippos to finish grazing in peace.

‘For me, it was the experience of a lifetime,’ Van SchalkWyk said. ‘I felt privileged to see animal behavior like that, but I also felt for the mother. All of us just stood there for a while afterwards, not talking, just taking in the scene.’


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