Humphrey’s rage: ‘tame’ hippo bites and kills farmer in river

2011-11-14 00:00

ORKNEY — The unusual relationship between an army major and his “tame” hippo ended tragically at the weekend when the animal bit his master to death.

Major Marius Els (40), who also farmed near the Vaal River, was bitten by his pet Humphrey, dragged into the water and killed. The hippo was shot dead a few metres from Els’s body.

The relationship between the hippo and Els made international news on YouTube and in foreign newspapers.

The five-year-old animal was rescued from a flood in Mpumalanga as a calf and raised as a pet.

Els said earlier this year that two previous owners also treated Humph­rey as a pet and he had learnt to swim with humans.

He said the animal even allowed people to brush his teeth. Els gave him a home after he got too big for his previous owners to handle.

Beeld was told Els ignored warnings that the hippo was still a wild animal that should be treated as such.

The animal reportedly regularly chased golfers on the Orkney course when he broke out of his enclosure, but Els said he always responded to his voice and returned home.

Netcare 911 spokesperson Jeff Wicks said paramedics had to rescue a 52-year-old man and his seven-year-old grandson from a tree earlier this year after they were chased by the animal while canoeing.

Jaco Pieterse, national spokesperson for the SPCA, said wild animals belong in the wild and the association strongly discourages keeping them as pets.

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