PETA Wants Dangerous Hippo Encounters Stopped at L.A. Zoo, Prohibited by Federal Law

Visitors Allowed to Touch Species That Has Killed More People Than Any Other in Africa; New Hippo Baby Harassed in Interactive Exhibit

For Immediate Release:
February 16, 2016

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Los Angeles – Following reports that the Los Angeles Zoo has begun offering visitors a “Hippo Encounter Tour”—in which members of the public, including children, are allowed to touch dangerous hippos, including a mother and her baby, even though the mother is likely to protect her baby against perceived threats—PETA has contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today calling for an investigation into the practice. PETA believes that the tour violates the Animal Welfare Act, which mandates that barriers should separate potentially dangerous animals from visitors.

“As the Los Angeles Zoo has itself acknowledged in the past, hippopotamuses are dangerous and aggressive mammals who kill more people than any other animal in Africa,” says PETA Foundation Deputy Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Brittany Peet. “Depriving a mother of the opportunity to raise her baby in peace without the continuous stress of strangers approaching her, eager to touch her, is dangerous to visitors and animals alike.”

As noted by PETA, whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment,” a human-wildlife conflict study in Uganda revealed that hippopotamus attacks are the most deadly of any wild mammal in that country, with a casualty rate of 86.7 percent. In 2014, a hippopotamus attack in Niger resulted in the death of 13 people, including 12 children. Mother hippos are particularly dangerous, often attacking crocodiles, lions, or anyone they perceive as a threat to their calf. At the St. Louis Zoo, a zookeeper was attacked by a mother hippo and sustained a broken leg and lacerations, and the zoo’s then-director believed the mother attacked because she perceived a threat to her baby.

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“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind