Last year when I was in Uganda, a man told me a story about a gamekeeper who outran a hippopotamus. I didn’t believe the story at first but then I looked it up and it turned out to be true
Turns out the guy was a gamekeeper at Murchison Falls National Park. He got a little too close to one of the park hippos. The hippo charged him and the guy had to run for it.
Luckily the gamekeeper was a very good runner and out ran the hippo. Most people wouldn’t be able to do that. Hippos have been clocked at speeds up to 24 miles per hour.
To get an idea of how lucky this gamekeeper was to escape, take a few minutes to read about how dangerous these beasts are.
HIPPO KILL MORE HUMANS THAN ANY OTHER ANIMAL IN AFRICA
Hippos may look like over sized harmless cows to some people, but truth be told they are one of the most dangerous beasts in Africa and kill more humans that any other animal there. More than four hundred people in Africa have been killed by rampaging hippos. This figure far exceeds the death toll from lions, tigers or any other wild animals.
Hippos can weigh up to 9000 pounds and and have teeth that are as sharp as razor blades. These beasts are vegetarians and don’t eat people. But they will crush you between their giant jaws if angered. This is what happened to Spencer Tyron, a African hunter who was attacked by a bull hippo. The animal’s crushing bite was so powerful it sliced off Tyron’s head as well as his shoulders.
Hippos are known to attack on land, but most attacks from Hippos come in the water when people in boats get too close to them. There are dozens of videos on Youtube showing this. In one, it shows a hippo actually attacking the outboard motors on the vessel.
In most cases, the driver is able to get away quickly enough, but sometimes the hippo gets the upper hand and tragedy quickly ensues. This is what happened to a young honeymoon couple from South Africa.
HONEYMOON TRAGEDY – MAN’S NEW WIFE KILLED BY HIPPO
Bruce Simpson and his wife Janice were on safari in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. They were traveling in a canoe with a guide. The canoe came too close to a hippo and was attacked. The hippo tipped the canoe over. It then crushed young Janice between it’s jaws and bit through her heart and lung. She died instantly.
HIPPO VETERINARIAN ATTACK
Even professionals find it difficult to work with Hippo. In 2010 a group of veterinarians were testing a new sedative on a Hippo in South Africa. The sedative turned out to be too weak. The animal woke up and attacked one of the doctors. He would have been killed if it had not been for an armed game warden who shot and killed the animal.
SOUTH AFRICAN FARMER KILLED BY HIS PET HIPPO
Marius Els 41, had raised a hippo he called Humphrey from the age of five months, and once described the hippo as being ‘like a son’ to him. But Marius misunderstood the danger of trying to befriend unpredictable hippos. One night in 2011, Humphrey turned on his owner. It gouged Marius to death by repeatedly biting him in a vicious attack.
The farmer’s mutilated body was discovered submerged in a river running through his 400-acre farm in rural South Africa. He was married with 2 children at the time of his death.
LOCAL VILLAGER KILLED BY HIPPO
In South Africa, a local villager named Alfred Dube was found trampled and lifeless in a thicket near a river he had been trying to cross with two friends.
“The men knew the river was home to crocodiles and hippo, but claim they had no other way of crossing. Dube was the second to swim across, and appears to have been seized almost exactly in the middle of the river,” said regional police spokesperson Captain Benjamin Bhembe.
“He screamed and struggled, but was apparently unable to free himself from the large animal’s jaws. When he was dragged underwater, his horrified friends ran for help in opposite directions.”
The local police station almost immediately dispatched a rescue team, but was unable to trace the missing man. “All we found were some very large blood stains on the river bank near the scene,” said Captain Bhembe.
“We’re still uncertain whether Dube was dragged into the dense thicket and then trampled, or whether he was trying to escape. The most significant injuries were two deep bite wounds in the back, said Captain Bhembe.
ISRAELI TOURIST KILLED AS HORRIFIED CHILDREN WATCH
In another case not long ago, Aviyam Yariv, a 39-year-old criminal attorney and son of literary editor and translator Hilit Yeshurun, took his two children out for a boat ride along the Zambezi river in Africa, when suddenly a hippo turned their boat over causing the three to fall into the water.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth, both children, who were wearing life vests, were able to stay afloat and made it out alive. However, Yariv, who was not wearing a life vest, was not as lucky. He was most likely attacked by hippos and alligators dwelling in the tumultuous river. He was never found.
FORMER SOUTH AFRICAN BEAUTY QUEEN ATTACKED BY HIPPO
In yet another case, Former Miss South Africa (1991), Diana Tilden-Davis, was bitten on the leg by a hippo while canoeing in the Okavango Swamps in Botswana. Lucky she survived.
Her husband Chris Kruger told the SAPA news agency: “The Hippo must have been very stressed because he attacked Di just above the ankle with his razor-sharp teeth going through her bone and skin.”
HOW TO AVOID A HIPPO ATTACK
If by chance you find yourself confronted with a Hippo, here are a few tips that might come in handy.
• If you’re in a canoe, allow hippos plenty of space. Avoid rivers where numbers are concentrated.
• Tap the side of the boat to signal your position so hippos do not come up beneath you.
• Keep your distance when on foot. Avoid thickets where hippos may be skulking.
• Listen out for oxpecker calls – a warning sign that there may be a hippo around.
• Clapping your hands, waving your arms or shouting is likely to have no effect on a charging hippo. Your only hope is to seek immediate refuge behind or up a tree or behind a termite mound.
On a lighter note, here are some interesting facts about hippos:
Hippopotamus’s closest living relatives are whales and porpoises from which they diverged about 55 million years ago.Their skin secrete a natural sunscreen substance that is red-colored. The secretion is sometimes referred to as ‘bloodsweat’ but is neither blood nor sweat. This secretion is initially colorless and turns red-orange within minutes, eventually becoming brown.