Courageous Hippo Mom Takes Flight: How One Mother’s Defiance Saved Her Calf from an Elephant Onslaught

In the unforgiving world of the wild, it’s a mother’s instinct to go to any length to safeguard her offspring, even if it involves a daunting confrontation.

The spotlight is on a brave hippo mother who dared to square off with an irate elephant bull, subsequently thrown several feet in the air, to provide her calf a chance to flee to safety.

A Mother Hippo Was Flipped Several Feet Into The Air As She Stood Her Ground Against An Aggressive Elephant Bull, Giving Her Calf Time To Run To Safety
A mother hippo was flipped several feet into the air as she stood her ground against an aggressive elephant bull, giving her calf time to run to safety.

Remarkably, she survived this altercation with minimal injuries – a slight scratch and a bruised sense of dignity.


Rian Van Schalkwyk, a passionate wildlife photographer, caught this unforgettable event on camera at Erindi Private Game Reserve, Windhoek, Namibia.

Ouch: Despite The Force Of The Attack The Mother Hippo Emerged Relatively Unscathed Suffering Just A Cut On The Side Of Her Body
Ouch: Despite the force of the attack, the mother hippo emerged relatively unscathed, suffering just a cut on the side of her body.

Van Schalkwyk, who also practices as a General Practitioner in Rundu, a quaint town in northeastern Namibia, shared his thrill, “I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the wilderness, yet this was an unparalleled spectacle that left me awestruck.”

Van Schalkwyk and his family exclusively witnessed the unfolding drama from a restaurant viewing deck after the other guests had retired for a siesta post-lunch.


The deck, overlooking a waterhole, provided a perfect spot to observe the escalating tension between the wildlife residents.

Take That: An Elephant Bull Charges A Female Hippopotamus As Her Calf Scampers To Safety, In Erindi Private Game Reserve In Windhoek, Namibia
Take that: An elephant bull charges a female hippopotamus as her calf scampers to safety in Erindi Private Game Reserve in Windhoek, Namibia.

Van Schalkwyk recalled, “I was photographing hippos bathing when a herd came out to graze on the grass laid out by the staff due to a prevailing drought.

The tranquil scene was disrupted when a large elephant bull barged into the scene, aiming for the same grass.”


Tension arose when the mother hippo inadvertently got too close to the elephant, leading to a swift escalation. Despite the significant size difference – the elephant effortlessly flipping the 1.5-tonne female hippo with his trunk – the mother stood her ground.

Image 109
Don’t cross him: The hippo rolls after she is flipped into the air by the angry elephant.

The photographer narrated, “The mother hippo rolled down towards the water after landing on her back. The aftermath saw the elephant shaking his head in disbelief.

At the same time, the defiant mother retreated into the water, later emerging after about five minutes. The maternal instinct against a formidable opponent.”


Post this intense encounter, the mother and calf were reunited. However, instead of sympathy, the hippo herd showed aggression towards them, forcing them to isolate themselves from the group.

Charge: The Hippos Got To Close For Comfort For The Elephant Who Was Grazing Alongside Them Happily At First
Charge: The hippos got too close for comfort for the elephant who was grazing alongside them happily at first.

The elephant continued to dominate with mock charges at other hippos and shooing away sunbathing crocodiles.

Ending peacefully, the elephant treated itself to a dust bath and left the scene, leaving the hippos to graze undisturbed.


Reflecting on the remarkable event, Van Schalkwyk said, “The experience was a treasure for a lifetime. Observing such raw animal behavior was a privilege, yet seeing the mother’s struggle was poignant.”

The Baby Hippos Run For Safety As The Mother Takes The Full Brunt Of The Force By The Elephant
The baby hippos run for safety as the mother takes the full brunt of the force of the elephant.
The Scene Was Captured By Wildlife Photographer Rian Van Schalkwyk, 40, At The Erindi Private Game Reserve In Windhoek, Namibia
The scene was captured by wildlife photographer Rian van Schalkwyk, 40, at the Erindi Private Game Reserve in Windhoek, Namibia.

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