How Marius Els’ pet hippo, whom he described as his son, mauled and killed him

How Marius Els’ pet hippo, whom he described as his son, mauled and killed him

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Earlier this week, several users took to Twitter to share a news report claiming that a hippopotamus had dragged a South African man named Marius Els and ate him near a river, six years after he had rescued and adopted the baby hippo.

A social media account named Facts (@StrangeFactoid) shared a news report on Twitter on Friday saying, in 2005, a South African man, Marius Els, had adopted a baby hippo after rescuing it from a river. However, six years later, after years of bonding between the two, the hippo dragged him into that same river and “ate” him.

Even though the news reports of a South African national being mauled to death by a hippo is true, however, it is misleading to claim that he was eaten by the same hippo that he had ‘adopted’ six years ago after rescuing from a river.

Did Hippopotamus eat the South African man?

The incident pertains to the tragic death of a farmer from South Africa named Marius Els, who was mauled to death by his pet hippo Humphrey. In an incident that had occurred in November 2011, 40-year-old Army Major Marius Els was killed by the 1.2-tonne hippo he had adopted and tried to domesticate on a farm in Free State province.

The body of Els was found in a river with marks of being bitten by a huge animal several times, which he had earlier described as his son. Els’s body was found submerged in the river where he had rescued the hippo from a flood six years ago.

The hippo grew too big for the people who adopted it and was bought by Els at the age of five months, becoming his pet on his 400-acre farm. Els was also photographed riding on the five-year-old hippo’s back.

Marius Els on the back of Humphrey near his farm/ Image Source: MTC

“Humphrey’s like a son to me, he’s just like a human,” he had said. “There’s a relationship between Humphrey and me and that’s what some people don’t understand. They think you can only have a relationship with dogs, cats and domestic animals. But I have a relationship with the most dangerous animal in Africa,” Els had said.

However, Els’s wife, Louise, a pharmacist, had a different story to tell. She had expressed misgivings about the hippo as the giant animal had caused trouble before. Earlier in 2011, a 52-year-old man and his seven-year-old grandson had to climb and stay atop a tree for two hours after being chased by Humphrey.

Similarly, Humphrey has also been accused of killing calves belonging to Els’s business partner. The animal also frequently broke out of its enclosure and chased golfers at a local golf club.

Els, who had also domesticated kept giraffe and rhino, claimed the sound of his voice would bring Humphrey back home. He regarded the hippo as “loveable” and a “gentle giant”.

Except, years later, Humphrey mauled Els in the river on that fateful day and left him submerged in the water for several hours, causing his death. Though there were some bitten marks on Els’s body, the hippo had not eaten up the body after killing him, as claimed by social media users.

Hence, social media users claiming that the hippo “killed and ate” the man, who had adopted and domesticated for years, is misleading.



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