A toddler has fully recovered after being swallowed headfirst by a hippopotamus while playing near his home.
The semi-aquatic animal is said by Ugandan police to have grabbed the two-year-old “from the head and swallowed half of his body”.
The young boy, named as Iga Paul, was then regurgitated after a man who was nearby scared the hippo by throwing stones at it, the Uganda Police Force said on Monday.
The child was immediately rushed to a nearby health clinic following the attack, which took place at around 3pm on 4 December. He was treated for injuries to his hand before being transferred to Bwera Hospital for further treatment.
He has now been discharged after making a full recovery and receiving a rabies vaccine, according to police.
The incident at the boy’s home, some 800 metres from Lake Edward, is the first time a hippo – which tend to weigh around 1.5 tonnes and have large three-chambered stomachs – has strayed from the lake and attacked a child, the force said.
Police commended the man who saved the child, Chrispas Bagonza, for his bravery in scaring away the hippo.
Despite being largely herbivorous, hippos are the world’s deadliest large land mammal, and kill around 500 people in Africa each year, according to the BBC. Yet the aggressively territorial creatures are deemed vulnerable to extinction as a result of habitat loss and illegal hunting.
The force reminded all residents of the Katwe-Kabatooro area, which is located within Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park, to remain vigilant and alert Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers about animals that have strayed into their neighbourhoods.
The park, which features a cluster of 10 volcanic crater lakes, is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including elephants, crocodiles, chimpanzees, hyena and lions. Lake Edward is one of Africa’s great lakes and straddles both Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth park and the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It was also claimed on Friday that members of an Isis-affiliated militia were eaten by crocodiles as they attempted to cross the DRC border into Uganda’s Ntoroko district, roughly 100 kilometres to the north of where the hippo attack took place.
According to local media, a defence spokesperson said that Uganda’s armed forces had repelled the incursion, killing 17 members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and capturing 13, while several remaining members of the Islamist group who attempted to return across the Semliki River were “enjoyed” by crocodiles.