Hippos are considered one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. With their giant size, ability to topple boats, and massive jaw strength, they are reportedly responsible for nearly 3,000 human deaths per year.
So imagine the shock that Spanish locals must have felt when they saw one of Africa’s strongest pachyderms trying to cross a busy street in their town of Palos de la Frontera in Huelva, Spain.
The hippo had reportedly escaped from a circus that was in town.
While it’s probable that human witnesses felt a healthy dose of fear, there’s no doubt that the hippo was extremely afraid, too. Photos and video of the incident show that the animal ended up in front of cars, attempting to navigate noisy and unfamiliar streets.
ACHO QUE ME MEO JAJAJAJAJAJAJA COMIENDO CÉSPED TÍO pic.twitter.com/HRW77sdrwz
— LOLA MÁRQUEZ. (@lolamarquez12) May 4, 2016
And although some of the social media captions depicting the incident were callous jokes, the hippo’s escape—which could have turned deadly for both humans and the animal—was no laughing matter.
Cuando te encuentras un hipopótamo por la calle 😂 buajajajajajajajajajaja pic.twitter.com/2PHAKY9Hiw
— Valeria Borrego ❤ (@valeriaborregoo) May 4, 2016
In their natural homes, herbivorous hippos live in groups called “schools” and spend most of their time in rivers and swamps. However, this animal—like all animals carted around and used by a circus—was denied everything that was natural and important to him or her. Constant travel with a circus means that animals are confined to trailers, sometimes for days at a time and in all weather extremes, without access to the basic things that they need to make them happy—such as, in the case of hippos, family and a flowing river. And when the circus is not on the move, animals are imprisoned inside enclosures that could never begin to replicate the conditions of their natural homes.
This hippo didn’t want to be imprisoned and tried everything to break free.
Although reports indicate that no one was harmed in the escape and that the hippo was returned to the circus, it’s impossible to comprehend the magnitude of the stress and confusion that the animal must have felt wandering along busy, unfamiliar streets. This hippo risked it all to escape from a place where he or she never belonged in the first place.
What You Can Do
Don’t go to zoos or circuses that profit from live animals, and tell your friends and family to do the same.