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5 Top Animals that Eat Hippos (List & Pictures)

what eats hippos

Hippos are eaten by lions, humans, hyenas, crocodiles, and other hippos. Apart from humans, their other predators will only hunt hippos during scarcity of food, when the hippo is sick, or when it is young.

Hippos are quite well protected against predators. They could kill all their predators instantly, considering that they are huge and have strong jaws.

Additionally, they usually feed in a herd, thus intimidating any predator that might think of prey on them.

All that said, they are still preyed on by lions, crocodiles, and hyenas. Hippos also kill other hippos, especially male hippos, for dominance, mainly during mating seasons. Humans also kill hippos for their teeth and as a source of meat.

What Eats Hippos? (Their 5 Predators)

1. Humans

human
Scientific NameHomo sapiens
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeWorldwide
DietOmnivore

The main threat to hippos is poaching. The ban on the trading of elephant tusks across the globe has forced humans to shift to hippos. Hippos are mainly killed for their teeth since it’s a lucrative business for poachers.

Congo is a country that is believed to have the second-largest number of hippos across Africa. This was after Zambia recorded a decline in the number of hippos by more than 95 percent at the start of the 21st century.

According to the report, the decline was due to increased demand for hippos’ teeth after the ban on the trading of elephant tasks.

Reports by AWF indicate that Uganda exported more than 5.5 tons of hippo teeth, which translated to around 2000 hippos killed. If these statistics are to go by, the number of hippos will drastically reduce and might force them to extinction if stringent measures to protect them are not put forth.

The increased hunting of hippo teeth is because they have not been included in the ban of ivory trading.

According to the times, hippos are vulnerable species in Africa, with an estimated population of not more than 150,000.

Hippo submerged

The other reason why hippos are hunted is because of their meat. Hippo meat is highly pricey and considered a delicacy among residents of northeastern Congo.

An article by CBS News stated that a three-ton hippo could retail at three thousand dollars in village markets. Therefore, it would fetch more when exported to upmarket eateries.

The other threat to hippos is human encroachment as demand for agricultural land, roads, and settlements rises. Human encroachment has pushed hippos away from their natural habitats and confined them to protected areas.

These protected areas are limited, meaning that food is scarce. Therefore, limiting their thriving. Additionally, continued encroachment by humans has increased human-wildlife conflict.

As a result, governments have tried to dig ditches and build low fences to deter them. However, this has only done little because hundreds of hippos are shot dead every year to reduce human-hippo conflict.

Hippos are also hunted for their skins. Hippo skins are used to make leather products, with the main market being the United States and Mexico.

Other hippo parts that are highly priced in Asia and European markets are feet and legs obtained after legal hunts and exported as trophies to these markets.

Note: Hippos kill the highest number of humans globally compared to any other wild animal. They usually kill for territorial purposes since they are purely herbivorous. It is estimated that hippos kill more than 500 people annually.   

2. Lions

Lion licking its lips
Scientific NamePanthera leo
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeAfrica
DietCarnivore

Apart from human activities, the hippo’s population is also threatened by lions. Although lions rarely prey on a hippo, they can kill and eat hippo, especially when food is scarce.

Lions are the finest hunters who have mastered hunting skills over the years. Therefore, if determined to kill a hippo, they will do so in a heartbeat. Lions work in groups, making it easy to hunt and kill a hippo.

Pride of Lions

However, lions will rarely hunt an adult hippo and prefer to go for younger and sickly hippos because they are defenseless and an easier target. Additionally, they prey on adult male hippos that have been injured during mating battles.

This is because an adult hippo has teeth that can grow to more than 6 centimeters and skin of more than 6 inches. Hippo teeth can crush a lion into two parts in a heartbeat. Their teeth can even cut across tree branches.

Additionally, it is very hard for lions to tear through the hippos’ thick skin. Their slippery skin also limits the gripping power of the lions.

Hippos usually feed at night, and for a lion to attack it, it will have to wait until it comes out of the water and strategically corner it. However, effectively killing a hippo will require a large number of lions.

3. Crocodiles

crocodiles
Scientific NameCrocodylus acutus
Type of AnimalReptile
RangeSouth Florida
DietCarnivore

Hippos are not among a crocodile’s favorite meals, but they can kill and eat hippo calf if isolated from the herd. Crocodile diet mainly entails small aquatic animals, zebras, and gazelles.

Hippos and crocodiles live peacefully in their natural habitat. It would be suicidal for a crocodile to try and start a fight with an adult hippo. Hippos are smarter and stronger than crocodiles. Even with their excellent hunting skills, crocodiles cannot prey on an adult hippo.

Documented instances where crocodiles have preyed on hippos included isolated hippo calves. Additionally, aggressive, large, and hungry crocodiles prey on half-grown hippos, especially females, because they are smaller than their male counterparts.

Furthermore, crocodiles also prey on isolated male hippos left injured during mating battles with other males.

Generally, cases of crocodiles preying on hippos are very rare. Furthermore, they are highly territorial and live in herds, making it difficult for crocodiles to attack even hippo calves. Additionally, videos documented by national geographic on crocodile and hippo fights have majorly shown crocodiles being tossed around like toys and even killed.

4. Hyenas

hyena
Scientific NameHyaena hyaena
Type of AnimalMammal
Rangenorthern Africa, the Middle East, and India
DietOmnivore

Yes, hyenas might be very small compared to hippos, but they still prey on them. Hyenas are the most skillful and successful hunters in the African jungle, displacing other big cats like lions, cheetahs, and leopards. This is because some scientists believe that hyenas might be as intelligent as some primates.

Hyenas are very tactical hunters that use their numbers to bring down their prey. They usually hunt in packs of not less than 30 individuals. To counter their small size, they usually surround their prey and bite from any angle until the animal is weak and exhausted to defend itself.

That said, hyenas preying on adult hippo is very rare and usually prefer to attack calves and injured hippos.

Hippos are highly defensive and aggressive animals, and for a hyena to even get the opportunity of reaching their calves are limited. However, hyenas will kill and eat a young hippo if an opportunity arises.

5. Other Hippos

Hippo with open mouth
Scientific NameHippopotamus amphibius
Type of AnimalMammal
RangeAfrica
DietOmnivore

Just like lions, hippos live in a pack with a dominant male. Therefore, if another male invades another males’ territory, the dominant male will attack to defend its territory. It is during these fights that hippos kill each other.

Even if the invader is not killed, it can be dangerously harmed, leaving it vulnerable to other prey like crocodiles, lions, and hyenas.

As stated, hippos and lions share similarities in making their territory or acquiring new territory. Therefore, if a male is expelled from its territory, the invading male hippo usually kills calved fathered by the other male. The essence of this practice is for the alpha male to sire its offspring.

Mating seasons is when fights are many. Additionally, during drought season, many hippos are forced to congregate in the limited water source, disrupting the hierarchical system. Disruption of the hierarchical system increases aggression, with the alpha male asserting dominance. In the process, daily fights are experienced and fatal in some cases.

FAQs

What are Other Threats to Hippos?

While baby hippopotamuses are threatened by other animals like crocodiles, the biggest threat is actually human encroachment through poaching, deforestation, agricultural development, and even climate change.

To help sustain strong and healthy wild populations of Hippos, African wildlife conservation agencies and governments have tried to create protected habitats. And this is certainly necessary. In fact, they’re even endangered in some countries, such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, their population has dropped by 95%.

Where Do Hippos Live?

Hippos live in 30 different countries in Africa. Whereas once they were commonly found throughout the continent of Africa, they have retreated to more remote areas to escape human encrouachment.

Why Is It Important To Protect Hippos?

Hippos play a huge role in balancing the ecosystem by rejuvenating swamps and grasslands. Hippos dung has essential elements for the food chain, especially for fish. Therefore, the elimination of hippos will negatively affect people depending on fish as a food source.

Hippos pose economic benefits to governments and people living around them. As tourists flock, they bring forth economic benefits.

Hippo Facts

Hippopotamus are among the largest mammals on the African continent after elephants and rhinoceros. They are semi-aquatic and usually feed at night; they can be seen basking in the sun during the day, but for a short while.

An adult male hippo can weigh up to 1500 kg, while a female can weigh 1300 kg. Their length can vary from 1.3 m to 1.6 m. As such, due to their large size and strength, hippos do not have many predators.

Conclusion

Although lions, hyenas, and crocodiles prey on hippos, they are not a major threat to their existence. Cases of these predators preying on hippos are very limited.

However, the major threats to hippo existence are human activities such as poaching and encroachment. Poachers kill hundreds of hippo every year for their highly-priced teeth and skin. Additionally, human-wildlife conflict resulting from encroachment has seen hundreds of hippos killed.

Encroachment has also increased human fatality due to hippo attacks.  

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