Angry hippo flings newborn calf into the air

  • 72

It’s no secret that hippos are aggressive and life in a pod can be pretty rough, especially for juveniles. These incredible photos, recently captured by tour guide Stacey Farrell in ’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park show the moment a five-day-old calf was mauled and tossed into the air by a bullying sub-adult.

According to Farrell, hippo mothers typically leave the group when they give birth in order to keep their vulnerable calves away from the potential threats posed by other family members. Newborn hippos literally need to develop thicker skins before they can handle the jostling and jolting that comes with life in the pod.

In this instance, the dominant male was fending off a rogue bull that had moved into his territory, so “we assumed because the males were fighting, the mother thought it would be safe to return the baby to the rest of the pod,” Farrell explains via email.

Attempts by the mother to keep her calf away from the aggressive subadult failed and the newborn hippo was mauled and tossed into the air. Image: Greatstock/Stacey Farrell

“One or two sub-adults were constantly trying to get a closer look at the baby but were met with aggression from the mother. As the mom fell asleep, a [member of the herd] grabbed the baby in its mouth … what started off as curiosity had escalated into jealousy and then aggression, in my opinion,”Farrell suggests.

Despite the mother’s attempts to get her calf back, the attack proved fatal and the newborn hippo later succumbed to its injuries.

According to tour guide Stacey Farrell, what started off as curiosity from the subadult hippo quickly escalated into jealousy and aggression.Image: Greatstock/Stacey Farrell
The newborn hippo died from its injuries a few hours after the attack. Image: Greatstock/Stacey Farrell
The dominant male battling a rival bull about 500 metres away from the rest of the pod. Image: Greatstock/Stacey Farrell

This article was first published by on 06 May 2015.


Subscribe to our FREE Newsletter



Vanished - Megascops Choliba by Jose Garcia Allievi

Discover hidden wildlife with our FREE newsletters

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.


Founder and Executive Editor

Share this post with your friends

  • 72

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
M Leybra
M Leybra

As biological beings the human species has no monopoly on like incidents, esp. known ‘deliberate’ torture & death cases of children who slipped thru ‘child protective services’ cracks. Non-human animal acts can seldom be ascribed to ‘deliberate evil’ as much as to aggressive curiosity behavior by particular species & inadvertent death of the most vulnerable among them. In any case, not for ‘us’ to judge.

Pete Roberts

Nature is harsh , fantastic photography though!

Khloe Keen

Too sad. He was just days old.

Julie Zickefoose

There is something so weird and horrific about an herbivore that's equipped with such devastating jaws. Hippos have short fuses, and not only trample people who get in their way, they chew them up too.

M Leybra
M Leybra

And then other people shoot them with guns, so animals never come out ahead, do they?

Leigh Lofgren


Maki Murakami

How sad…but I am glad that it was not human that killed him.

Maria Manuela Lopes

Very sad