An enormous hippo bull that had been spotted roaming the streets of Mbombela in Mpumalanga several times was finally caught and relocated in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The operation took around three hours to complete, Bossies Community Justice operations manager Albert Gryvenstein told News24 on Monday.
"There had been several sightings of the hippo over the last week or so, but every time we went out we couldn't find anything," Gryvenstein said.
So when the call came in late on Saturday night that the hippo was grazing along the R40 and old KaNyamazane Road, Gryvenstein and his team responded along with other emergency response units and the Mpumalanga Wildlife Protection Services (MWPS).
"The R40 is one of the main routes in Mbombela, and it is a busy road, so we had to ensure the hippo didn't wander into the traffic," Gryvenstein said.
A pool of security vehicles was used to isolate the hippo while awaiting the arrival of the MWPS.
Gryvenstein said he was concerned the hippo would be shot, but the MWPS arrived with a truck and indicated that the bull would be darted and relocated.
No easy task
But getting a fully grown bull of this size darted and moved onto a truck is no easy task.
"It took three darts to get him to fall asleep and he had to be lifted onto the truck by crane," Gryvenstein said. "It was a helluva thing."
Adult male hippos can weigh anything between 1.3 tons and 1.5 tons.
Darting such a big animal is also an expensive endeavour.
"We underestimated its size, it was a moerse (huge) bull. After the second dart was fired, the guy told me it had already cost more than R5 000. So by my calculation, the darts alone cost more than R7 500."
According to Gryvenstein, the hippo was taken to the MWPS and would eventually be sold and rereleased into the wild.
Gryvenstein says it's difficult to determine where the hippo came from.
Not the first time
"The Crocodile River runs through [Mbombela], and with the rains it often happens that animals are caught up in floods, which makes them end up here. It's not the first time this has happened.
"A bull like that can travel for a long distance roaming its territory, between 40km and 80km, from what I've heard. So he would need to be relocated much further than that, otherwise he will be back."
The hippo has since been taken to safety and remains in the care of the MWPS.