By Brian Handwerk
Back off, buddy! That’s no welcoming smile, but a hippopotamus leaving absolutely no doubt that an African elephant is an unwanted visitor to its home turf.
“There is an island on the middle of the Chobe River to which this elephant had crossed. The hippo was not happy about it and was apparently defending its territory,” said photographer Nicole Cambre, a 43-year-old lawyer from Brussels who captured this scene while visiting Botswana in August.
Cambre watched, and photographed, the partially submerged hippopotamus swim toward the elephant as the latter stood impassively near the shoreline. When the hippo emerged onto the island, it showed off massive teeth and jaws in a bellicose display meant to intimidate the trespassing pachyderm. (Related: “‘Unusual’ Pictures: Lions vs. Hippo.”)
Face to face with the largest land animal on Earth, which had lowered its head for possible battle, the hippo showed no signs of backing down—but it eventually reconsidered when reinforcements arrived, Cambre reported. “When more elephants crossed the river to the island, the hippo backed off and went back into the river.” (Related: “Rare Pictures: Crocodile Attacks Elephant.”)
And while the hippo didn’t pose a lethal threat to the giant ellie, the big mammals can back up such belligerence with most other species—including humans. In fact, hippos may be the most dangerous animal to encounter in all of Africa—unless you’re the size of a bull elephant.