Did you see this Latest Sightings video on social media? Mervyn van Wyk and his wife Tokkie captured a pod of hippo saving a wildebeest from a croc and we asked our wildlife expert to explain what happened.


Wildlife expert LD van Essen says:

It’s hard to interpret videos like this one because we can never be sure what motivated the animals to act as they did. 
There are two possible explanations:


1. The hippos were protecting a calf

Although hippos and crocodiles live side by side in waterholes and rivers, they are still wary of each other. Crocodiles can and will feed on hippo calves. Maybe there was a calf in the pod and the two adult hippos reacted to the disturbance in the water to keep the little one safe.


2. The hippos were protecting their territory

Hippos are territorial, especially in water. The struggling wildebeest may have prompted the hippo to protect their territory. In the video you can see the hippos are hesitant in their approach. Usually animals or humans move away when a hippo draws close, but the wildebeest couldn’t. This isn’t normal behaviour and it made the hippos nervous. In the end the hippo decided to launch an attack, possibly to get the wildebeest out of the water. But it had an unexpected side effect: the crocodile released the wildebeest.

The angle of the video makes it difficult to determine if the hippo rammed into the wildebeest. Towards the end of the video it appears as if the hippos are still focused on the wildebeest. This could show that the crocodile was not their original target and that their behaviour was just a territorial reaction and not an attempt to save the wildebeest.
If it was an attempt to save the wildebeest, as many people seem to think, you could ask why hippos don’t do this every time a crocodile catches prey in their vicinity.