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Nkululeko, the wandering hippo put down

by Janine du Plessis
on 15 Jul 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

The hippopotamus which has been wandering the KwaZulu-Natal coast since March has been put down following allegations that it had killed a local resident.

The hippo had been given the name Nkululeko (meaning freedom) after a local newspaper launched a competition to name him, had become a much-loved attraction in the area.

He was put down on Monday night in a joint operation between the eThekwini Municipalities, Natural Resources and Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife.

In a statement Christo Swart, the Deputy Head: Health, Safety and Social Services said as a responsible municipality, they could not take a gamble with the lives and safety of the local community.

"We took a final decision to put the animal down before any further incidents could occur. He was a wild animal out of its normal habitat unpredictable when engaging with humans," he said.

The single hippo had migrated from the north along the coast towards the South Coast and had been located in the upper reaches of the Umdloti River.

It was reported that his numerous visitors had caused the animal distress. Nkululeko was even caught on film swimming in the surf near Ballito in May, apparently paddling as the current carried him forwards.

The municipality had considered capturing the hippo but with the amount of food available and the close proximity of the animal to deep water it was deemed that neither passive nor darting capturing would be successful.

"With capture not an option and the high risk of humans coming into contact with a dangerous wild animal, a decision to put the animal down was taken," said the municipality.

Conservationists came up against protests by local communities and animal rights activists when they tried to put the animal down, leading to conservationists stopping the process.

Following a court order preventing the municipality from putting the animal down, a decision was taken on 11 July to allow the animal rights activists to capture the animal.

"Both eThekwini and Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife were concerned that any enforced delay would increase risk.

"The Animal Rights Activists requested an opportunity to capture the animal by 28 July as they had experience and experts to deal with the situation.

"This was agreed to, with the provision that in the event of an incident occurring where human life is placed in immediate danger, the agreement would lapse, and that the Action Group would with immediate effect initiate a local community awareness campaign as to the dangers and prohibitive measure to reduce any risk of human animal conflict," said Mr Swart.

Unfortunately the hippo allegedly killed a resident and both the Ezemvelo and the eThekwini Municipality were forced to put the hippo down. - BuaNews

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