Hippo in Uganda nibbles on 2-year-old boy, brave onlooker quickly intervenes

A two-year-old boy is safe and has made a full recovery after a brave bystander rescued him from the jaws of an enraged hippopotamus. The boy was almost swallowed whole before being rescued, Ugandan police said.

The hippo attack happened around 3:00 p.m. on December 4 near the boy’s home on the shores of Lake Edward in Kasese District in western Uganda. The area is within Queen Elizabeth National Park, home to several lakes and nature reserves and a popular tourist destination.

Ugandan police said the boy, Iga Paul, was playing outside his home when a hippopotamus ran out of Lake Edward and attacked him.

The hippopotamus grabbed the boy’s head and swallowed half of his body, according to police.

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Hippos in the Victoria Nile near Murchison Falls, one of Africa's majestic natural sites in Murchison Falls National Park in northwestern Uganda, January 25, 2020.

Hippos in the Victoria Nile near Murchison Falls, one of Africa’s majestic natural sites in Murchison Falls National Park in northwestern Uganda, January 25, 2020.
(YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)

But a bystander, Chrispas Bagonza, witnessed the attack and rushed to the boy’s aid. He threw rocks at the hippopotamus and startled the animal, causing it to release Paul from its mouth, police said

The boy was immediately taken to a nearby clinic. He was treated for injuries to his hand and later taken to Bwera Hospital for further treatment. He made a full recovery and was discharged from hospital and taken back to his parents after receiving a rabies vaccine, authorities said.

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(Giovanni Mereghetti/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Two bull hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius) fighting in the water of the lake, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Two bull hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius) fighting in the water of the lake, Kruger National Park, South Africa.
(Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“Although the hippopotamus flinched back into the lake, all residents near wildlife sanctuaries and habitats should know that wild animals are very dangerous,” Ugandan police warned. “Wild animals instinctively see humans as a threat, and any interaction can cause them to behave strangely or aggressively.”

Notoriously aggressive, hippos are actually the deadliest large land mammal on the planet, killing an estimated 500 people each year, according to National Geographic. Despite their docile appearance and enormous size – adult hippos can weigh up to four tons – they can run up to 20 miles per hour and are excellent swimmers. Their jaws can open 180 degrees and strike with a force ten times that of a human jaw, with sharp teeth that can grow more than a foot and a half in length.

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Although they are herbivores that feed primarily on short grass, some studies have reported cases of hippos eating meat when food is scarce, according to the Exclusive African Safaris website.

“There are many other instances where they are said to forcibly chop up the flesh to ‘kill’ the animal that disturbed them,” the website reads.

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Hippos can be found in various national parks in Uganda.

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