While in his bakkie Marius Els would hoot and Humphrey the hippo would approach at a run. They always met at the same spot and Humphrey would open his jaws in anticipation of the apple his friend always brought him.
But on this afternoon he didn’t crouch in the water as usual – he remained upright. Was it because he was irritated by the midges that had bitten his ears to bits?
Humphrey opened his mouth and Marius offered him a piece of apple. But when the hippo flattened his small, bloody ears Marius realised there was something wrong. He stepped back but slid on the muddy bank and landed in front of the animal’s nose.
The gruesome scene that followed has made headlines worldwide – and fulfilled a sad prophecy Marius had spoken of when we reported on their unique friendship last year.
“People say he’ll kill me one day but I don’t believe it,” he said. “After all, a child wouldn’t bite its father to death.”
YOU’s Alet van Zyl spoke to Louise, Marius’ widow, who says she believes the two are sitting side by side in heaven.
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Read more in YOU 24 November 2011.