One Dead, 23 Missing After Hippo Hits Boat in Malawi

Tragedy struck Malawi on Monday, when a hippopotamus collided with a boat traveling down the African country’s Shire River, according to multiple news sources.

The boat capsized, and a one-year-old baby drowned, Malawi authorities told The Guardian. Twenty-three people remain missing.

The large canoe was ferrying 37 people across the river when the incident occurred Monday morning. Some outlets have characterized the hippo’s behavior as an attack, but ExplorersWeb could not confirm that information as of this writing.

Nearby observers sprang into action after the capsize and pulled 13 people from the water, according to Nsanje police spokesperson Agnes Zalakoma. They also retrieved the baby’s body from the river, Zalakoma said.

The search mission for the missing individuals continues.

An ongoing problem

Accidents have become common on the Shire River, and local MP Gladys Ganda has repeatedly called for the construction of a bridge so people don’t have to risk their lives in small boats, the BBC reported. So far, nothing has been done.

The Shire is Malawi’s largest river, and shelters many hippos and crocodiles. At the same time, many of the boats and canoes used on the river “are often overcrowded or poorly maintained,” the BBC wrote.

Five people died and 12 more went missing after a similar boat sank in Malawi’s central district of Mchinji in April, the Anadolu Agency reported.

hippo in water

A hippo in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Africa. Photo: Shutterstock


“Other passengers drowned but I tried hard to stay afloat,” survivor Chrissy Govati told the publication. “Dead tired, when I gave up hope from nowhere a well-wisher held my hand and pulled me out of the water.”

Weighing anywhere from 650 kg to 2,350 kg, hippos are the world’s third-largest land animal after elephants and white rhinos, according to National Geographic.

But their fierce territoriality in the water has made them the world’s deadliest large animal. They kill about 500 people in Africa every year, National Geographic wrote.

Just watch the above video for all the evidence you need.

Andrew McLemore

An award-winning journalist and photographer, Andrew McLemore brings more than 14 years of experience to his position as Associate News Editor for Lola Digital Media. Andrew is also a musician, climber and traveler who currently lives in Medellin, Colombia. When he’s not writing, playing gigs or exploring the outdoors, he’s hanging out with his dog Campana.