Hippopotami are astonishing creatures. Just when we thing we understand them, they prove themselves more adaptable than ever.
Consider the case of Pablo Escobar's Hippos.
You will recall that Escobar was a Colombian drug lord. When his assets were seized, he had a huge wild animal park on his estate. Most of the exotic animals either died or were collected by environmentalists. But not the Hippos.
The four, 3-ton beasts have taught themselves to graze on grass, like cows. Being marine mammals, they spend all day submerged in the lake on the grounds. Their numbers have swelled to 16 and they can destroy any man-made fence put up to try and control them.
While these giants may seem gentle, the hippo kills more humans each year than any other animal. No benefactor has emerged with sufficient funds to return them to their native Africa. Local authorities may, sadly, be forced to kill the herd.
Man has put another giant's fate in limbo.
A bull Asian elephant named Nicholas is living in a barn just north of Chicago. With his species endangered, one would think he would be a prime candidate for breeding programs across the country. But with Nic, there's a hitch: he was exposed to TB.
Nic was a member of a group of 16 elephants whose owner rents out circus animals. He was ordered to surrender the animals by the USDA after being found in violation of the Federal Animal Welfare Act. 14 of the elephants, all female, have been placed at an Elephant Sanctuary. The sanctuary will not take males, however. A 15th female remains behind with Nic as a companion. The Sanctuary has offered to take her as well, just not Nic.
Breeders would like to keep Nic's genes in the gene pool, but no one has room for a male. So Nic continues to live in the barn that has been his home for the past two years with no end in sight.
About a year after we moved in to our house (10 years ago), our neighbors moved out and were replaced with a young couple with a a little girl and a cat. The cat, Max was about 5 or 6 then. After a while, he showed up on my porch because he was sick of being bugged my the little girl all the time. He started to eat the food I set out for Scruffy, so I asked if it was okay. The neighbors were floored. Max never ate dry food at home!
He probably never got the chance. Max had been the center of attention until the kid came. When the child showed up - he was just a cat. He had been the husband's cat before the marriage.
After 3 or 4 years, the neighbors got a lab puppy. They were excited at first. Then the marital problems happened. The puppy became a dog. He was left outside. You didn't see them walking or playing with the dog. He dug his way into my yard. They also acquired a kitten in this time. The kitten was allowed inside, while Max was not.
The dog was a major source of contention. The dog was the husband's dog. I could hear the dog getting yelled at a lot, never praised. One day, a large lab showed up on my porch. His whole back was devoid of fur - it looked like mange. I didn't recognize him, but later found out that this was my neighbor's dog. I noticed a patch of mange on the now-grown kitten as well.
The dog, thankfully, is gone. I believe they have sent him to the ex-husband. Wherever he went, he is probably better off. The kitten's mange has been treated. He is now coming over to my house begging for food. He shoves Max away from his food dish. Max steps aside as though this is accepted practice. It probably is. Max turns to me for attention. He runs up to me for pets. What happened to his owners?
The common thread through all these stories is that the animals themselves did nothing wrong to get themselves into these situations. It was the people.
Before you the gift of a pet this Holiday season, please consider carefully if the recipient will take the time to care for and love that animal.