Los Angeles police would like to have a word with a man who entered the hippopotamus enclosure at the Los Angeles Zoo and slapped Rosie the Hippo on the butt.
As KCBS-TV reports, the unidentified man was caught on video doing the deed and managed to get away before he could be caught. Now police are looking for him.
Authorities say the man climbed the fence at the hippo enclosure where two animals, Rosie and her mother Mara, were kept. He cautiously approached the animals and, apparently deciding it was “safe,” slapped Rosie on her butt. Rosie, for her part, barely seemed to notice. But her mom, Mara, appeared to be startled, to say the least.
The man then ran back over the fence and appeared to celebrate for a moment, before heading away.
Now, let’s count the things the guy did wrong, starting with the most obvious.
1. That’s really dumb. Female hippopotamuses can weigh over 3,000 pounds. Their jaws can crush a human without breaking a sweat, and indeed, hippos kill about 3,000 humans each year on average in Africa. The foul-tempered and territorial beasts don’t like intruders in their habitats, according to Mother Nature Network.
2. That’s animal abuse. Granted, Rosie didn’t even notice that she’d been slapped, but still: don’t slap animals, even one-and-a-half-ton hippos.
3. That’s trespassing. This is why the LAPD would like to have a word. You can’t prosecute people for being dumb, but you can punish them for trespassing. Especially since entering a zoo enclosure is a specific crime in California, according to zoo spokesperson April Spurlock.
In a statement, the L.A. Zoo discouraged future visitors from entering animal enclosures – as if that needed to be said.
“The Zoo would like to remind everyone that it is never acceptable for a guest to enter the habitat of any animal at the Zoo, excluding our staff-supervised animal encounters. It is a privilege to observe these rare and endangered species, but they are still wild animals and their space must be respected at all times. Our first priority is always to keep our guests, staff, and animals safe.”
By the way, if you’re really desperate to interact with a hippopotamus, you can do so safely and legally, for $20. That’s how much the zoo charges to participate in the Hippo Encounter program.
Meanwhile, the zoo has put up “No Trespassing” signs up at the barriers to their animal enclosures – once again, as if that needed to be said.
The alleged hippo-slapper, if caught, faces misdemeanor charges.