Tom Yule, manager of the Grumeti Expeditions tour operating company, captured the rescues on video in October and his son Michael (13) took the photos.
Yule, a South African now living in Tanzania, was watching the wildebeest and zebra migration across the Mara River near the northern Lemala Serengeti tented camp together with a touring group when they saw the incident.
“This is the time of year that the migration of wildebeest and zebra starts moving south from the Masai Mara in Kenya, heading for the short-grass plains of the southern Serengeti,” said Yule.
“One of their big hurdles is the Mara River, which was flowing very strongly that day because of recent heavy rains.”
Yule and several others saw the strong current sweep a young wildebeest calf downstream.
“The hippo immediately went after it and positioned itself on the downstream side of the calf, nudging it with its snout and keeping it above the water all the way across the river until the calf reached the other side and managed to get out and join the rest of the herd.”
Barely five minutes later the water swept away a zebra foal. The hippo immediately set off after the foal and helped it toward the opposite bank in the same way.
“It was incredible to watch,” said Yule. The foal was utterly exhausted when it eventually managed to get on to a little rock island very close to the opposite bank.
“It just stood there panting,” he said.
“The hippo got out of the water and came up behind the foal and started nudging it and gently biting it on its backside as if to say, ‘Come on man, don’t give up now, you can do it. Just a hop, skip and a jump and you’re there.’
“The foal slowly stepped off of the island and crossed the little channel on to the opposite side and rejoined the rest of the family group.”