In what might be the first recorded incident of its kind, a hippo has been videoed rescuing a baby wildebeest and then an exhausted zebra foal over a period of about 10 minutes.
The rescues were spotted by tour operator Tom Yule, who filmed the incident alongside his 13-year-old son Michael, who took photographs of the unfolding events on the Mara River in the northern Serengeti. Yule has a conservation background and worked in KwaZulu-Natal before moving into tourism.
Yule runs Grumeti Expeditions, a tour operating company in Northern Tanzania that has four tented camps situated in the country’s northern national parks. The camps are said to offer “the old Hemingway-style safari experience”.
On a recent camp visit to one of the tent sites on the Mara River, Yule and his son witnessed the plight of two frightened foals who were both aided by a hippo that news their struggles and nudged them on to safety.
The incident happened in early October, but has become increasingly popular as the footage has been widely watched on YouTube and the pictures have been carried online.
According to Yule, who described the rescues to Talk Radio 702’s John Robbie this morning, the hippo was watching the herd of wildebeest cross the Mara River.
A calf jumped into the river and battled to swim with the flow.
The hippo then swam towards it and pushed it along until it reached safety on the other side of the river.
Minutes later a herd of zebra also crossed at the same point, and the same hippo returned to help a distressed zebra foal that was in trouble.
Using its nose, the hippo nudged the exhausted baby animal across to safely join its herd on the other side.
Captivated by the events, Yule filmed it while instructing his son to take the camera and photograph what was happening.
According to Yule’s account, “The event took place in October on the Mara River very close to our northern Serengeti camp.
“This is the time of year that the migration of wildebeest and zebra start moving south from the Masai Mara in Kenya, heading for the short grass plains of the southern Serengeti.
“One of the hurdles which they have to face of course is getting across the Mara River, which flows from the Masai Mara in Kenya in a westerly direction across the top end of the Serengeti until finally reaching Lake Victoria.”
Yule explained further: “Because of the rains in the area, the Mara River was full and flowing quite strongly.
“The animals jump from the bank into the river in their thousands and on the day in question, we were watching one of the crossings and we saw a hippo lying in the water right next to where the animals were plunging in.
“One small calf started to get washed downstream in the strong current and the hippo immediately went after it and positioned itself on the downstream side of the calf nudging it with its snout and keeping it above the water all the way across the river until finally the calf reached the other side and managed to get out and join the rest of the herd.
“The hippo went back to his post and five minutes later, a zebra foal also started to get washed downstream and the hippo went and did the same thing for the foal.
“Of course this little animal was absolutely exhausted by the time it managed to get onto a little rock island very close to the opposite bank.
“The hippo got out of the water and came up behind the foal and started nudging it and gently biting it on its backside as if to say, ‘Come on man, don’t give up now, you can do it. Just a hop, skip and a jump and you’re there’.
“And so of course with that encouragement from someone 50 times your size, the foal slowly stepped off of the island, and crossed the little channel onto the opposite side and rejoined the rest of the family group.” - The Star