When you weigh 1.5 tonnes, it must be strange to find yourself cast in the role of the plucky under-hippo. But this brave mother met more than her ᴍᴀᴛᴄʜ when she went up against a bull elephant to protect her baby.
This fully-grown hippopotamus was ꜰʟɪᴘᴘᴇᴅ several feet into the air by an angry elephant bull as she stepped in to sᴀᴠᴇ her calf in a ᴅɪsᴘᴜᴛᴇ over grazing. The ᴛᴇʀʀɪꜰɪᴇᴅ baby hippo was able to scamper to safety as the brave mother hit the ground.
Amazingly, she emerged relatively unscathed from the a.ttack s.uffering nothing more than a little cut on the side of her body and a rather bruised ego.
“I felt incredible 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 north east of Namibia, on the Angolan border, was spending a long weekend at the reserve with 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.
The mother and the calf were quickly reunited but far from being lavished with sympathy, the herd acted ᴀɢɢʀᴇssɪᴠᴇʟʏ 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 ʜᴀɴᴅꜰᴜʟ of ᴍᴏᴄᴋ charges on other hippos before ᴠᴇɴᴛᴜʀɪɴɢ 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 behaviour 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.”