A wildlife photographer in South Africa recently captured an astonishing confrontation, as a wildebeest and crocodile squared off before an enraged hippo turned the battle into a three-way rumble in the jungle.
Amateur photographer Nick Fleer, 27, documented the unusual interaction on a visit to the Shingilana Dam in Londolozi Private Game Reserve, South Africa. He watched as the wildebeest approached the water to drink, before a crocodile struck the animal, dragging it into the water and engaging it in a battle to the death. As the pair thrashed about in the water, they caught the attention of a nearby hippo, which quickly became agitated and decided to join in the fight, lashing out at the wildebeest.
The battle raged on for an hour, according to Fleer, as the wildebeest tried in vain to make its escape from the crocodile. The hippo, meanwhile, attempted to sink its teeth into the wildebeest’s back, as a pack of hungry hyenas gathered at the water’s edge, ready to fell the wounded animal should it make a miraculous escape.
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“It was such an unexpected and aggressive reaction from the hippo towards the wildebeest,” Fleer recalled. “I was under the impression the hippo would go for the croc instead of the wildebeest — but that was not the case. It was such a surreal experience and we couldn’t quite believe what was happening. It was incredibly exciting.”
Eventually, the wildebeest grew exhausted, finally giving up the fight for its life as the crocodile began to feed and the hippo went back to its wading nearby.
Hippos are noted for their territorial, and at times highly aggressive, behavior. Earlier this year, a tour group experienced such a display first hand, as their boat approached a group of hippos. One of the animals plunged underwater while the tourists filmed, approaching the boat but visible only by its wake cutting across the surface. The enraged hippo broke from the water just feet from the speeding tour boat, brandishing its massive tusks and nearly succeeding in attacking the vessel.
The area in which Fleer filmed the astonishing encounter is part of the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, a former hunting preserve that houses the “Big Five” of African animals. Though the Shingilana Dam is an area of the park where numerous animals gather to drink, the showdown between the hippo, crocodile, and wildebeest remains an unusual and rarely seen display.
[Images: Nick Fleer/Caters News Agency via the Daily Mail]