Hippos may look adorable — like overgrown pigs with sarcastic little eyes — but they can be incredibly aggressive. This past weekend, two Taiwanese tourists in Kenya learned the hard way how deadly these enormous vegetarians can be.
Chang Ming Chuang, 66, and his colleague Wu Peng Te, 62, were attempting to photograph a hippo at a wildlife resort on Lake Naivasha at the time they were attacked. A popular destination for wildlife enthusiasts, the lake and surrounding game reserve are about 56 miles northwest of the capital, Nairobi.
Chang and Wu encountered the hippo near the Sopa Resort, where such sightings are familiar. The resort’s website actually advertises the hippos’ presence, noting guests will see them “when they leave the lake every night to come and trim the grass on our expansive lawns.”
However, according to witnesses, Chang and Wu got too close to the creature, which responded by biting Chang in the chest.
Hippos can weigh anywhere from one to four tons, with jaws strong enough to snap canoes in half. Despite being herbivores, they are responsible for as many as 500 human deaths in Africa every year.
Chang initially survived the attack, and was rushed to hospital with severe bleeding. He later succumbed to his injuries. Wu was fortunate to escape with only minor bruises, as relayed by the official Tweet on the incident from the Kenya Wildlife Service.
The KWS erroneously identified the men as Chinese, possibly because the Kenyan government maintains no formal ties with Taiwan, instead recognizing Chinese sovereign claims over the island. Taiwan’s foreign ministry subsequently confirmed that the men were in fact Taiwanese nationals.
According to David Kilo, chairman of the Lake Naivasha Boat Owners Association, rising water levels have forced hippos to come further inland in search of places to graze. The result has been an increase in encounters between hippos and humans, which are often acrimonious.
Six people have already been killed by hippos in the region this year.
Update: KWS was tracking the hippo who attacked the tourists. On Monday afternoon, it was reported that KWS staff had shot the hippo dead in a local wildlife park.
Thinking about heading out on safari? Read How To Choose The Best Safari.