This is the rare moment a mostly herbivorous hippopotamus sinks its teeth into the carcass of an impala – before throwing the animal around as it plays with it in the water.
Wildlife photographers Eben and Elna Geldenhuys came across the huge mammal at Transport Dam in Kruger National Park, Limpopo in South Africa.
Hippos are omnivores and their diet usually consists of grass and little else.
But there has been an increase in the animals spotted feeding on meat – including one which was photographed chowing down on the carcass of another dead hippo last year.
Mr Geldenhuys said: ‘The best way to describe the hippo’s actions is to say that it was playing with the carcass.
He was shaking it around and dunking it underwater.
It was clear that he was very protective about the carcass in the sense that as soon as another hippo came closer. He turned away from the new hippo.
However, this particular hippo did not appear to be feeding on the impala.
Mr Geldenhuys continued: ‘At one stage he also let go of the carcass to join up with some other hippos in the dam.
However, as soon as he noticed fish feeding on the carcass. He immediately swam back and claimed it again as his own.
The couple did not arrive in time to see how the impala ended up dead. But they did consult a field guide in Shamwari to find out what could have provoked the hippo.
He said the hippo most likely killed the impala. When it ventured into the water and claimed the carcass as a prize.
Hippo’s are extremely territorial in water. Their fearsome teeth meant none of the animals were willing to interfere with this hippo’s impala playtime.
Mr Geldenhuys added: ‘The crocodiles kept their distance. Which was probably a wise thing to do.
This hippo was in no mood to share his impala with anyone.
One other hippo ventured a bit closer. But it did not seem as if any of the other hippos were bothered by what was happening.’
The couple saw similar behaviour four years ago. When they came across a hippo pushing an impala carcass into the reeds along the banks of the Transport Dam.
Mr Geldenhuys said: ‘We were not impressed that we might have missed any possible action that could explain how he ended up with the impala. But so is the nature of the bush.
We tried to console ourselves by saying. He must have it off a crocodile when the croc left its kill alone.
Eventually the hippo tired himself out with his impala flailing. And he had a nap – with the impala still in his mouth.