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American Tourist Attacked By Hippo During Safari Tour In Zimbabwe

By Sharelle Burt

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How many people can say they survived an attack by a hippotamus in Zimbabwe? Kristen Yaldor can.

The 37-year-old was randomly attacked by a hippo who was protecting her babies while celebrating her birthday with a river safari tour with her husband. They were canoeing on Zimbabwe’s Zambezi River when one of the guides spotted the hippo on the right bank. The guide then told the adventurers to paddle to the left side of the river to avoid the animal, known for its aggression, especially during calving season.

Then, things suddenly took a turn for the worst. A hippo suddenly appeared under their canoe and flipped it over,  pulling the American tourist underwater as she was trying to swim to the riverbank. Her husband, Ryan Yaldor, was also thrown from the canoe and tried to swim back to shore. When he turned around to call for his wife, she submerged under water, her leg seen in the hippo’s mouth.

Fun fact: An average sized four-year-old child can fit inside a hippo’s mouth standing up.

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To escape, Yaldor punched the hippo in the face several times, finally releasing her. Her husband helped her out of the water and the head guide reportedly administered first aid. She was airlifted to a clinic in Zimbabwe about 45 minutes later. The pressure from the hippo’s teeth caused a ragged fracture in Kristen Yaldor’s right femur. She has already had two surgeries but may need more in the future.


Wild Horizons, who hosted the excursion, gives customers a pre-safari safety briefing and instructions on how to properly use the canoe. In case of emergencies, backup vehicles follow behind the canoes and guides are always given cell phones and handheld radios for emergencies. The Yaldors said that guides weren’t able to reach anyone at the time of the attack, which caused a major delay in getting medical attention.

In a statement, Wild Horizons said that the company takes every safety precaution while on safaris. “We would like to stress that while our guides are expertly trained and qualified to manage trips such as these, and that every preparation is painstakingly made,” Wild Horizons said. “Nature is unpredictable.”

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Sharelle Burt

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