Clash of Giants: Elephants Assert Dominance Over Hippos at South African Watering Hole

In a captivating display of nature’s power, a herd of elephants boldly confronted a group of hippos to secure the prime spot at a South African watering hole.

The stunning encounter between these majestic creatures unfolded before the lens on August 9th in the Pilanesberg Nature Reserve.

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This was when a herd of elephants charged a bloat of hippos to claim the prime spot at a watering hole.

Renowned wildlife photographer Corlette Wessels, 47, was nearby as a sizeable elephant cow took offense at the nearby presence of hippos.


The elephant’s initial irritation escalated swiftly into a forceful charge, prompting the startled hippo to retreat promptly.

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The elephant’s bad temper quickly turned into a charge, and the hippo was forced to turn and flee.

Witnessing a fellow herd member in distress, the entire group of elephants, weighing several tons, joined the pursuit, prompting the hippos to flee for safety.

During the chase, the female elephant and several herd members reached the hippos, utilizing their massive trunks to make contact.


Thankfully, a moment of serenity returned as the hippos moved to a muddier section of the watering hole.

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She said: ‘I am no expert in animal behavior, but I think this elephant cow was irritated with the two hippos being near where she was busy drinking.

Corlette, residing on the Crocodile Nature Reserve north of Johannesburg, expressed astonishment at the spectacle, noting that this was her first encounter with such behavior.

She shared, “I’m no animal behavior expert, but it seemed that the elephant cow took offense to the hippos’ proximity while she was drinking.”


The hippo pursued during the incident was recognized by its deformed teeth and affectionately known as ‘Harry.’

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Seeing one of their herd in distress, several tonnes of elephant herd joined the chase, which saw the hippos race for safety.

Initially, the elephant cow’s actions appeared to be a mock charge, quickly transforming into a vigorous pursuit that drove ‘Harry’ through the water, experiencing blows from the elephant’s trunk and forceful pushes.

As the chase ensued, the other hippo sought refuge in the bushes while the remainder of the elephant herd surged toward the hippos.


Amidst the frenzy, Corlette feared for the hippos’ safety, as the elephants exhibited aggression throughout the pursuit.

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Both the female elephant and some of the herd members caught the hippos, hitting them with their massive trunks.

Though the details were obscured once the chase moved into the thick bushes, ‘Harry’ eventually returned to the waterhole, trailed by the persistent elephant cow. The situation diffused as ‘Harry’ found solace in the muddy terrain.

Subsequently, the second hippo reappeared, bearing minor bloodstains on its side but otherwise unharmed.


Corlette emphasized the profound respect both elephants and hippos command due to their rapid and robust movements.

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But thankfully, a pachyderm peace descended once the hippos moved to a muddier section of the watering hole.

She underlined the critical reminder that even in controlled environments, wild animals demand deference.

The wildlife enthusiast captured this extraordinary moment using a Nikon D750 camera with a Nikkor 70-200 lens.


With a deep-rooted passion for wildlife photography since her late 20s, Corlette frequently immerses herself in the natural world, making cherished connections with these awe-inspiring creatures.

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