When photographer Marc Mol boarded his microlight aircraft in 2011 to fly over Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park, he must have expected to see some amazing sights from his bird’s eye view. He probably didn’t expect to witness this epic battle of beasts as a massive herd of hippos and an equally-massive bask of Nile crocodiles engaged in mortal combat at a watering hole:
Since hippopotami and crocodiles share the same watery living environments, clashes between the two species are common, though not at these proportions. Usually these confrontations are singular battles between an opportunistic croc looking to feast on an unsuspecting hippo calf and a protective mother hippo who will gladly fight to the death to protect her own—or between much smaller bands of the animals when the hippos aim to drive the predatory crocs away from young calves.
As for who usually wins those battles… crocodiles are 16 foot, 500-pound killing machines who can demolish bone with their jaws just as easily as someone might snap a toothpick. However, despite all of that sheer power, crocodiles aren’t the most dangerous and deadly animal in Africa—hippos are. They might not be able to inflict 3,000 pounds of crushing force per square inch like the crocodile, but hippos’ razor sharp tusks and massive size (measuring 14 feet long and weighing 4 tons) allow them to easily overpower their reptilian neighbors.
Still, sometimes underdogs win wars and crocodiles can get the upper hand if their numbers are great enough. In fact, the only casualty from the epic clash witnessed by Mol appears to be a hippo.
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