You’ve probably seen – presumably on TV – Nile crocs Crocodylus niloticus interacting with Common hippos Hippopotamus amphibius (if you’ve seen it in real life, lucky you). By and large the two seem to keep apart. Having said that, there are certainly photos of the two sharing the same sandbanks. And then there are those instances of hippos scaring crocs away from carcasses, the weird reports of hippos mouthing and chewing the backs and tails of resting crocodiles, and those cases where crocodiles have been seen to walk or run across hippos’ backs.
What can certainly be said to be the most remarkable croc-hippo encounter yet reported was photographed by Czech wildlife photographer Václav Šilha last year, and yesterday they were featured in various national newspapers. Here’s the best photo (in my opinion: you may already have seen it November’s BBC Wildlife magazine).
Šilha reports that the crocodile had tried to attack a calf, but that the entire herd rallied against it and formed a defensive circle (I’m not sure that circle is the right word: wouldn’t ‘scrum’ or ‘wall’ be more like it? Look at the photos). The crocodile then tried to escape by crossing over the backs of the hippos [as shown in the photo below, taken seconds prior to the one shown above]. They reacted aggressively and several individuals bit the croc repeatedly. It disappeared under the water and wasn’t seen again. Šilha is pretty sure it was dead, but it’s not possible to be sure about this from the photos (not that I’m doubting him). The event happened on the Grumeti River in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.
The literature (e.g., Pooley & Ross 1989) says that aggressive encounters between Nile crocodiles and hippos have been recorded before: it’s typically stated that hippos have been seen killing crocodiles when defending their calves. Nevertheless, I’m not aware of any previous such cases being captured on film. Hats off to Šilha, then, for recording such an extraordinary event. We often see images of remarkable fights, deaths and other events in the news media these days, and – if the images are good enough – such events quickly become widely reported online. Is anyone aware of such a case ever being reported in the technical literature, and do people agree with me that there’s a need for such cases to be put on ‘official’ record? Just a thought.
Thanks to MPT for the heads-up. For previous Tet Zoo articles on unusual animal conflicts see…
- Animal deathmatch: rhino vs croc, hippo vs shark…. leopard vs small passerine??
- Leopard vs crocodile (better late than never)
- PVP : Predator vs Predator
And for more on crocodilians and how neat they are see…
- Chito and Pocho, frolicking in the water
- Enough mammals for the time being: crocodiles on Inside Nature’s Giants (part III)
- Alligators vs melons: the final battle
- The world’s largest modern crocodilian skull
- Do crocodilians (sometimes) feed their young?
- Alligators eat fruit
Ref – –
Pooley, A. C. & Ross, C. A. 1989. Mortality and predators. In Ross, C. A. (consulting ed) Crocodiles and Alligators. Merehurst Press (London), pp. 92-101.