Hippo Tossing Baby 3 2015 05 06
Attempts by the mother to keep her calf away from the aggressive subadult failed and the newborn hippo was mauled and tossed into the air. Image: Greatstock/Stacey Farrell

It’s no secret that hippos are aggressive and life in a hippo pod can be pretty rough, especially for juveniles. These incredible photos, recently captured by tour guide Stacey Farrell in South Africa’s iSimangaliso Wetland Park show the moment a five-day-old calf was mauled and tossed into the air by a bullying sub-adult.

According to Farrell, hippo mothers typically leave the group when they give birth in order to keep their vulnerable calves away from the potential threats posed by other family members. Newborn hippos literally need to develop thicker skins before they can handle the jostling and jolting that comes with life in the pod.

In this instance, the dominant male was fending off a rogue bull that had moved into his territory, so “we assumed because the males were fighting, the mother thought it would be safe to return the baby to the rest of the pod,” Farrell explains via email.

“One or two sub-adults were constantly trying to get a closer look at the baby but were met with aggression from the mother. As the mom fell asleep, a [member of the herd] grabbed the baby in its mouth … what started off as curiosity had escalated into jealousy and then aggression, in my opinion,” Farrell suggests.

Despite the mother’s attempts to get her calf back, the attack proved fatal and the newborn hippo later succumbed to its injuries.

Hippo Tossing Baby 2015 05 06
According to tour guide Stacey Farrell, what started off as curiosity from the subadult hippo quickly escalated into jealousy and aggression. Image: Greatstock/Stacey Farrell
Hippo Tossing Baby 2 2015 05 06
The newborn hippo died from its injuries a few hours after the attack. Image: Greatstock/Stacey Farrell
Hippos Fighting 2015 05 06
The dominant male battling a rival bull about 500 metres away from the rest of the pod. Image: Greatstock/Stacey Farrell
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