A Reach Down, a Slap on a Hippo’s Butt, Now a Crime Probe

A Reach Down, a Slap on a Hippo's Butt, Now a Crime Probe

(Newser) – By now, everyone should know not to get too close to hippos in the wild or in captivity, but a California man didn’t get the memo. Officials at the Los Angeles Zoo tell the Los Angeles Times they’ve recruited the LAPD to help look for a most unusual sort of trespasser: a man caught on tape scaling a barrier and slapping one of two hippos in the pen below. The now-viral video, recorded from the other side of the enclosure by what sounds to be a young woman, shows the man slowly climbing over a railing, then reaching down to slap the butt of 4-year-old Rosie, who appeared to be snacking alongside her mother, Mara. Mara looks up briefly, and the person shooting the video can be heard giggling as the man lifts his arms up in an apparent victory stretch and runs off. But zoo officials warn that what happened was anything but funny.

“Any unauthorized interaction with an animal is unsafe for the animal and potentially unsafe for the patron,” a zoo spokeswoman says, noting something like this also breaks down the animals’ trust that zookeepers have worked so hard to instill. The BBC notes hippos are responsible for more human deaths in Africa than any other big animal. The suspect could be hit with a misdemeanor charge or other infraction—California law bars anyone from climbing into zoo enclosures—but the case is being investigated as a trespassing violation, not an animal cruelty one, as the animals didn’t seem particularly fazed by the incident.

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