A hippopotamus partially swallowed a 2-year-old child in Uganda. The boy survived.


Iga Paul did what most two-year-olds do on Sunday afternoons – he played outside his house.

But just over half a mile from the toddler’s home in Uganda was Lake Edward, one of the smallest bodies of water in the Great Rift Valley, home to large hungry creatures.

On December 4, at around 3:00 p.m. local time, a hippopotamus left the lake and partially swallowed Iga in a land attack that was highly unusual for the area, according to Ugandan police.

A bystander who witnessed the ambush began throwing rocks at the hippopotamus in an attempt to stop the attack. Eventually the hippopotamus was deterred by the human attacker and spat the boy out before retreating back to the lake.

“It took the courage of a certain Chrispas Bagonza, who was nearby, to save the victim after stoning and scaring the hippopotamus, causing it to free the victim from its mouth,” Ugandan police wrote in a statement.

“This is the first incident of its kind in which a hippopotamus strayed from Lake Edward and attacked a young child,” the police statement added.

Iga was taken to a nearby clinic for his injuries and was later transferred to Bwera Hospital in western Uganda for further treatment. He received the rabies vaccine and has since been released into the care of his parents, authorities said.

“Although the hippo was scared back into the lake, all residents near wildlife sanctuaries and habitats should know that wildlife is very dangerous,” the police statement said. “Wild animals instinctively see humans as a threat, and any interaction can cause them to behave strangely or aggressively.”

Hippos are the third largest land animal in the world and live predominantly in rivers, lakes and swamps in eastern, central and southern sub-Saharan Africa, according to Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In Africa, hippos kill an estimated 500 people each year, according to National Geographic, and are considered one of the deadliest mammals in the world. They are twice as deadly as lions. According to a 2020 study published in the journal Oxford Medical Case Reports, the chances of a hippo attack being fatal are between 29 and 87 percent.

In 2017, a Detroit woman was killed with her family while on an African safari. Carol Sue Kirken, 75, was attacked by a hippopotamus while on vacation in Tanzania, according to Detroit News. She died quickly in the arms of her son Robert, according to her obituary.

Hippo attack survivor Kristen Yaldor told ABC News in 2019 that a hippopotamus dragged her underwater while she was canoeing with her husband in the Zambezi to celebrate her 37th birthday.

The hippopotamus grabbed Yaldor’s leg tightly and slapped her around in the water for about 45 seconds. Yaldor said she pulled on the hippo’s mouth and it released her. Her femur was fractured and she underwent seven surgeries to repair her right leg when she returned to the United States.

“[I] I didn’t get a chance to scream, it just happened so fast,” Yaldor said.

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