Wildlife authorities donated the carcass to the Zulu King, who had it cooked up for the annual reed dance, where maidens dance bare-breasted before the monarch, The Star newspaper reported.
“We took a decision to kill the hippo as it had attacked a human being and was viewed as a problem animal,” KwaZulu-Natal province conservation spokesman Musa Mntambo told the newspaper.
The hippo, named after famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh because he only had one ear, was popular among wildlife enthusiasts.
The game ranger lost a leg in the attack.
A private game reserve had sealed a deal to take on Vincent, but wildlife authorities suddenly told them the animal was “no longer available”, its director said.
“Selling the hippo would have been irresponsible as it could have negative repercussions if it ended up attacking another person,” said Mntambo.
Authorities offered the carcass to Zwelithini, the traditional ruler of around 10.6 million Zulus, almost a quarter of the country’s population.
“From time to time, we donate animals to the king,” said Bandile Mkhize, the director general of the province’s conservation authority, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife.