Wildlife photographer Rian van Schalkwyk captured the spectacular scene as he watched the animals grazing at a safari park in Namibia
These astonishing pictures show the moment a hippo flew into the air after being charged at by an elephant trying to protect her calf.
The fully-grown mother was thrown several feet up as she tried to stand her ground against the aggressive bull – giving her calf time to scamper to safety.
Amazingly, the brave mother emerged relatively unscathed from the attack, apparently suffering a little gash on the side of her body and a rather bruised ego.
The scene was captured by wildlife photographer Rian van Schalkwyk, 40, at the Erindi Private Game Reserve in Windhoek, Namibia.
He said: “I felt incredibly privileged to see this. I’ve been in the bush a long time, but this was the most spectacular scene I’ve ever witnessed, I couldn’t believe it.”
From the vantage point of a restaurant viewing deck overlooking a water hole, the photographer and his loved ones got a private view of this incredible animal interaction.
“I was taking photographs of the hippos in the water but because of the ongoing drought the staff came and put some grass out for (the) hippos, because they have nothing else to eat,” Van Schalkwyk said.
“Immediately about twenty hippos came out of the water and started grazing.
“The next moment a large elephant bull came charging out of the bush in a rush, it was going for the grass as well.”
The elephant was initially happy grazing alongside the hippos, who kept their distance at first, but became agitated and flapped his ears frantically when they began to venture closer.
When the hippo mother in the pictures strayed just that little bit too close – and held her ground – the elephant decided to take drastic action.
Although adult female hippos can weigh upwards of 1.5 tonnes, the cow was dwarfed by the male elephant – who was able to flip her with his trunk with ease.