No, this hippopotamus is not on the loose in Mali

A video reportedly showing a hippopotamus on the loose in a village in Mali has been repeatedly shared on Facebook. It turns out, however, that this video was filmed in Senegal back in 2019.
A video reportedly showing a hippopotamus on the loose in a village in Mali has been repeatedly shared on Facebook. It turns out, however, that this video was filmed in Senegal back in 2019. © Facebook

A video reportedly showing a hippopotamus wandering the streets of a village in Mali has been repeatedly shared online since it was posted on Facebook on February 23. It turns out, however, that this video was actually filmed on March 31, 2019 in Kedougou, Senegal. The FRANCE 24 Observers team reported on the scandal that broke out when a hunter shot and killed the animal.

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A video, which has garnered more than 142,000 views on Facebook, shows a hippopotamus strolling calmly down the streets of a village as flabbergasted passersby look on. The caption reads, “A hippopotamus on land in broad daylight in Kayes.” 

This video was published a few hours earlier by the Facebook page J’aime mon pays le Mali [I love my country, Mali], which has since published a mea culpa.

Some viewers expressed doubt about the origins of the video in the comments section. Some people mentioned that the uniforms that the police were wearing in the video didn’t look like Malian uniforms, while others noted that the language that people were speaking in the video is not a language used in Kayes.

However, this video wasn’t filmed in Mali, but in Kedougou, Senegal in March 2019, according to Malian media outlet Le Jalon. A hippopotamus wandered into the town, causing locals to panic, before it was killed by a hunter.

This video was posted on YouTube on April 2, 2019.

 

If you look carefully at the video posted online on February 23, it is clear that it was filmed in the same place as the videos from Kedougou posted online in March 2019. A 56-minute video posted on Facebook on March 31, 2019 shows the brick wall of a building with a thatched roof that also appears in the more recently posted video. Both videos also show the pile of wood at the foot of the wall and a motorcycle and a stack of bricks in the background. 

The image at the left is a screengrab of a video filmed in Kédougou in March 2019, and at right, a screengrab of the video posted on February 23, 2021.
The image at the left is a screengrab of a video filmed in Kédougou in March 2019, and at right, a screengrab of the video posted on February 23, 2021. © Facebook

 

Fatoumata Konate, a city councillor in Kayes, confirmed to the FRANCE 24 Observers team that no hippos have strolled through the streets of Kayes these past few days.  

“I haven’t seen anything like this in this region since becoming an elected official," Konate said. 

Fake video, but a real issue in Mali 

In April 2019, the FRANCE 24 Observers team reported on the public outcry after a hunter killed the hippopotamus in the video. Local people and environmental activists denounced the killing of the animal, which was trapped in a septic tank and wasn’t posing a threat to anyone. Hippos are a protected species in Senegal and killing them is only allowed in legitimate cases of self-defence.

 

 

One social media user who shared the video of the hippo posted on February 23 said that the animal had likely left the river because of the artisanal gold mining taking place there.

“This happens when we pollute the river with Chinese gold mining. A hippopotamus in the streets, near Kayes.”

 

In this post, a social media user suggests that Chinese gold mining operations probably pushed the hippo to leave the river.
In this post, a social media user suggests that Chinese gold mining operations probably pushed the hippo to leave the river. © Facebook

 

Although this video of the hippopotamus wasn’t filmed in Kayes, the environmental issues caused by gold mining, which this social media user called attention to, are definitely real. Kayes is the No. 1 gold producing region in Mali. Mining companies yielded 48 tons of gold in 2019. The machines and chemicals used for gold mining have polluted the Faleme river, threatening the hippo’s habitat.