Paul Templer knows first-hand of the threat posed by the humble-looking hippopotamus.
Capable of running up to 24 miles an hour and dangerous either in land or sea, the average hippo weighs around 8,000 pounds and comes equipped with a mouth full of tusks and sharp teeth.
Territorial and unusually aggressive, thousands of people are killed by hippos every year across Africa and Templer is very lucky not to have been among them.
Back in 1996, he had been leading a kayak tour in Zimbabwe when a bull hippo struck.
Templer’s story took place in Zimbabwe back in 1996.
He had been leading a kayak tour on the Zambesi River in Zimbabwe at the time of the attack.
“I was engulfed in darkness,”Templer recalled in an account given to The Guardian years later. “There was no transition at all, no sense of approaching danger. It was as if I had suddenly gone blind and deaf.”
While one of the apprentices that accompanied him was killed in the attack Templer had been lucky, if you could call it that – he’d been half-swallowed but not killed with half of his body lodged inside the bull hippo’s mouth.
“I seemed to be trapped in something slimy,” he recalled. “There was a terrible, sulphurous smell, like rotten eggs, and a tremendous pressure against my chest.”
But Templer’s ordeal was only just beginning.
Quick as a flash, the hippo threw him into the air, catching his body again before shaking him like some inanimate rag doll.
What happened next is the stuff of nightmares. Templer found himself dragged to the bottom of the river by the hippo, where he was held for what felt like an eternity.
“Time passes very slowly when you’re in a hippo’s mouth,” Templer admits.
Eventually, the bull hippo returned to the surface, spitting out his prey and moving on quickly.
There would be no moving on for Templer though. Treated for an astonishing 40 wounds, his left arm was crushed beyond all recognition while one of his lungs had been left exposed by the carnage created by the hippo’s tusks and teeth.
But somehow, he survived, with his arm later amputated and just two years later he was back on the river, leading another expedition and on the lookout for the very same hippo that had changed his life forever.
To this day though, his attacker remains at large either dead or alive and lying in wait.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.