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US Tourist attacked by Hippo at Victoria Falls

US Tourist attacked by Hippo at Victoria Falls

Photo by Unknown // CC0 1.0
Caption: Hippos weigh between 1.5 and 4 tonnes, and are known as one of the deadliest mammals in the world.

A US tourist has been attacked by a hippopotamus while on a wildlife tour in Africa. 37-year old Kristen Yaldor was canoeing with husband, Ryan Yaldor, in the Zambezi River above Victoria Falls, when a hippo capsized her boat. She sustained injuries to her right leg, and is now receiving treatment.

Wildlife Tour Gone Wrong

Wildlife tours are very popular with tourists, but Kristen Yaldor’s trip went very wrong when a wild hippo became aggravated and launched its attack. The Florida couple were enjoying their meander down the river on the morning of Saturday 1st December, when the animal felt under threat and overturned their canoe.

Tinashe Farawo from the state wildlife authority confirmed the attack, and details that the woman suffered injuries to her right leg. On Sunday evening he tweeted that Kristen had been airlifted to South Africa for further treatment, a journey that took around 13 hours.

Farawo urges tourists not to underestimate wild animals like the hippo, and to be “vigilant and extra careful” when around them. He advises that it’s best to stay away from them entirely to avoid “unnecessary death and injury”.

Cause Of Attack

An unnamed witness from the scene says that the couple “came too close to the hippo”, but further details mentioned in ABC news suggest that the hippo was a mother protecting a nearby calf. Hippos are known to be more aggressive in calving season, and the couple were apparently unaware of the dangers.

At the time of the attack, husband Ryan was ejected from the canoe and swam quickly to shore, while Kristen fell towards the hippo and was dragged under. Kristen then punched the hippo several times in the face before being released and swimming to shore, where husband Ryan dragged her in and sat her in the nearest canoe.

Kristen received medical treatment on the river banks. She was then taken to a clinic in Zimbabwe, before being airlifted to Johannesburg. She has a fracture in her right femur, and received surgery for the break, as well as additional treatment to remove dead tissue.
At the moment it is unclear in a technical sense how the incident transpired, with details conflicting around the web, but what is clear is the dangers of wild animals and unpredictability of nature.

Danger Of Wild Animals

Photo by Malcolm Macgregor // CC BY-2.0

Caption: Hippos spend up to 16 hours a day submerged in water.

The Zambezi River runs from Zambia to Mozambique, and is a hotspot for canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding. The waters are home to wild animals like crocodiles and hippos. It is rare for crocodiles to cause problems, though attacks have been recorded. Victoria Falls is one of Africa’s most tourist-friendly towns, offering stunning views over the waterfalls, and both land and water-based Safaris.

Although tourists are encouraged to stay away from the animals, for many this is what they came to see, and incidents are not unheard of. In April, Zanele Ndlova from Bulawayo lost an arm to a crocodile attack, while elsewhere on the river two women from a village in northern Binga drowned after a hippo capsized their boat while fishing.

It’s unfortunate that hippos are often not given the respect that they deserve. Depictions and stories about animals don’t always tell the full picture. In New Zealand, the harmless-looking Piwakawaka bird is seen as a sign of death by the Maori people; while dangerous mammals like the hippo are often seen as harmless, or even “cute”.

Despite this image, hippos weigh between 1.5 – 4 tonnes, measure up to 14 ft in length, and have large tusks and teeth that they use to defend themselves, their young and their territory from threats. It’s little wonder the BBC has described the hippo as the “world’s deadliest large mammal”. Hippos also spend up to 16 hours a day submerged in water for protection from the sun, and are more likely to be territorial (and invisible) while bathing. The wild animals of Africa offer a powerful and humbling experience to anyone who gets the opportunity to come near them, but tourists are warned to keep their distance to avoid dangers.

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