Representational image (Hippopotamus)
Representational image (Source: Pixabay / bernswaelz) Source: Pixabay / bernswaelz


  • A hippo attack caused a packed boat in Malawi's Shire River to overturn, killing a toddler
  • Twenty-three of the 37 passengers are missing and feared dead in the crocodile and hippo-infested river
  • Malawi's wildlife authorities have yet to decide whether to move large animals out of the river

A 1-year-old child has died after a hippopotamus attacked a packed boat in Shire River, Malawi's largest river, causing it to overturn.

Agnes Zalakoma, a spokesperson for Malawi police, said Monday that 23 of the boat's 37 passengers are still missing and are feared dead in the river infested with crocodiles and hippos.

"Well-wishers managed to rescue 13 people while 23 others went missing and the dead body of the toddler has been found," Zalakoma said, CNN reported.

Zalakoma said accidents are common in the river, given the terrain and the presence of huge animals.

"It is too dangerous because it (the river) is too shallow, and in this river, there are crocodiles that most of the time attack people and also hippopotamus that cause incidents like the one we're dealing with," the police spokesperson said.

Gladys Ganda, a Malawi lawmaker who represents Nsanje district, where the incident happened, said the villagers had been trying to cross the river to get to their farms at the Malawian border with Mozambique when the attack occurred.

Ganda said she has repeatedly urged the government to build a bridge on the river to prevent residents from risking their lives to cross the water.

Brighton Kumchedwa, the director of Malawi's Department of Parks and Wildlife, told VOA News that moving large animals out of the area is not easy and that they do not want the country to violate certain international obligations concerning wildlife.

"Because what you need to do is to sedate these animals or to put them to 'temporary death, or sleep' so that they are easily moved," he said.

"These are water residents, so the moment you sedate the animal ... obviously it is [prone] to die, so it is not a simple job," the Malawi official added.

For now, the wildlife department plans to deploy a hunter to protect people in the Nsanje district from threats of animal attacks.

Last December, a 2-year-old boy in southwestern Uganda survived being attacked by a hippo that almost swallowed him, BBC News reported.

The toddler, identified as Iga Paul, was playing near the shores of Lake Edward when a hippo grabbed him and "swallowed half of his body," according to local police.

While Uganda's wildlife authority disputed the account of a child being swallowed by a hippo, police said the incident marked the first time the animal had strayed from the lake and attacked anyone.

According to Discover Wildlife, hippos are considered one of the world's most dangerous animals. It is estimated that hippo attacks kill 500 people each year in Africa.

A Hippo is pictured at dusk near the shores of Lake Baringo, one of Kenya's Rift Valley Lakes July 10, 2012. Reuters/Goran Tomasevic