Report hippo sightings, officials urge

By MARK CARRELS

Hippo in Kowie River will be euthanised

Ndlambe officials have urged residents to report any sightings of a hippopotamus in the Kowie River to the fire department on the emergency line 046-624-1111. The municipality says it may be forced to euthanise a wandering hippo, spotted by a fisherman wading in the Kowie River on Tuesday night. According to one account, the hippo has a calf, which is likely to make it particularly aggressive.

“It must be made clear that a hippo is one of Africa’s most dangerous game and its presence in an urban community cannot be taken lightly.  The community must know that the municipality is trying its utmost to ensure safety by working [on a solution] in collaboration with the relevant department and stakeholders,” said Ndlambe Municipality’s communications assistant TK Mtiki.

The latest sighting was by Port Alfred resident Reece Naude and his friend who were fishing off a private jetty in Wharf Street on Tuesday at midnight. “It was definitely a hippo … we both saw it,” he said. “There was just enough light for us to catch a glimpse of it … we shone our torches in the vicinity of the hippo as well.”  Naude immediately put the video he took on a community WhatsApp group with residents flooding the post with various comments on the sighting.

The municipality confirmed the incident took place close to the Putt Bridge in the CBD. “The short video sent to the municipality depicted what looks to be a hippo’s head and ears sticking out of the water. The video is unclear due to bad light and not much more can be identified as to whether this is a male or female nor maturity of the animal,” said Mtiki.

“Due to the complexities of hippo translocation and very few areas that would be a suitable habitat to house this animal, the options are limited in the management of this species. Unfortunately, due to the nature of this instance the municipality will be attempting to euthanise the animal in the most humane manner,” Mtiki said.

Fisherman, Naude, said he could not see signs of any calf with the hippo. “We were terrified and nervous of course and because there was just a slipway separating us … we were thinking it could make its way up to us,” he said.

Naude felt that authorities should try to relocate the hippo as it posed a threat to the local community. “Putting up signs warning the public won’t make the hippo go away.”

A Port Alfred resident told Talk of the Town the hippo was seen at the small bridge at Biscay mooring close to the CBD three weeks ago. “Guests on my rented boat saw and felt the hippo knocking the boat but fortunately no one was hurt nor was the boat damaged. She has a calf with her and she will attack and kill anyone coming near her. It can be a very dangerous animal when provoked,” he said.

He cited one reported statistic that hippos kill approximately 3,000* people in Africa every year. “It is a very dangerous animal and will kill if it has to – especially now that it is accompanied by a calf.” Ndlambe Municipality could not confirm that the hippo had a calf by her side.

The resident who requested to remain anonymous believes the hippo escaped from a Makhanda game reserve, but could not be confirmed.

Mtiki said the municipality would like to urge the public not to approach nor antagonise the animal as hippos are known to charge and kill people. The municipality had still not established where the hippo had wandered from but the relevant environmental authority was investigating.

The Ndlambe Municipality urged the community to assist by reporting any sightings to the fire department on the emergency line 046-624-1111 with the following information: Time seen, location or area, or pin drop near the site.

Why hippos are dangerous (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippopotamus)

Hippos, after elephants and rhinos, are the next largest land animal. Their closest living relatives are cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). Adults average 1,500 kg for males and 1,300 kg for females). A hippo is capable of running 30 km/h over short distances. They have wide-opening mouths with large canine tusks. Hippos are among the most dangerous animals in the world due to their aggressive and unpredictable nature.

*An earlier version of this article cited the figure 30 000. THis was incorrect. Other sources cite figures lower than 3 000.