Dramatic footage of an enraged hippopotamus mauling a Kenyan fisherman for nearly ten minutes has highlighted the increasingly tenuous future of one of the country’s most famous lakes.
Mathew Wanjiuku made a desperate attempt to save his life by sheltering under a fallen tree as he was repeatedly savaged by the beast after becoming trapped knee-deep in the waters of Lake Naivasha, a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Rift Valley.
“Mathew was grabbed by the head and rattled,” Federico Genovese, a professional Italian photographer who recorded Mr Wanjiuku’s ordeal, was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail and The Sun, two British tabloid newspapers.
“Stamping its feet and swinging its head vigorously, the hippo appeared to be trying to trample its victim.”
Mr Wanjiuku survived his ordeal last month but others, before and since, have been less fortunate. Another fishermen was killed and two other badly hurt in separate incidents on the lake over the weekend. A Chinese tourist was among several people who died in hippo attacks on Naivasha last year.
Hippos are the deadliest wild mammal in Africa, killing an estimated 500 people a year. Many attacks happen on land when humans inadvertently come between hippos and water, causing the beasts to panic. Hippos can also become aggressive in water if they are separated from their young.
Surrounded by volcanic hills, Lake Naivasha is a major tourist draw because of its large hippo and bird populations.
But its 200 hippos have grown more aggressive of late because growing human encroachment, mainly from fishermen, flower farmers and tourist hotels, has reduced their offshore habitat.
The problem has been compounded by rising lake levels, which have reduced the amount of grazing land available for the hippos. Kenyan authorities have come under criticism after unveiling a plan last year to reduce riparian land available for wildlife still further.
As a result, hippos are being forced to graze in areas they once avoided, such as on the lawns of tourist hotels or in areas where fishermen wade out to catch crayfish, leading to a sharp rise in attacks on humans
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