A South African man was bitten and killed by a pet hippo he called “Humphrey” and treated like a son.
Photos show the close contact between Marius Els and the hippo; in some, he even rides on the hippo’s back as if it’s a horse. Els previously said of the hippo that the animal was “like a son to me,” according to Fox News.
He was a farmer in Free State province of South Africa. Els was found dead in a river, having been bitten by the animal repeatedly, Fox reported. He was 40 years old. However, although a spate of news articles reported the man’s death as if it just happened in December 2020, Els actually died in 2011, according to an article on his death in The Guardian. That story announced, “Humphrey the pet hippo kills owner in South Africa.” Thus, the story is true, but it’s old.
Here’s what you need to know:
Els Admitted What He Was Doing Was ‘a Little Bit Dangerous’
Els named the hippo Humphrey after adopting the beast when it was still a calf. It grew to be 2,000 pounds in size. According to Fox News, he said in previous interviews that he did everything from play with the hippo to brushing its teeth. He also claimed the beast responded to his calls, Fox reported.
Els felt he could trust the animal implicitly, although it turns out he was very wrong.
“It’s a little bit dangerous, but I trust him with my heart that he will not harm anybody,” Els said, according to Daily Mirror. “I can swim with him.”
Daily Mirror quoted an ambulance service spokesman Jeffrey Wicks as saying of Els’ final moments: “Paramedics responded to the scene to find that the man had been bitten several times by the animal.” It was unclear how long Els had been “immersed” in the river.
Els Claimed He Had a Relationship With the Beast That People Didn’t Understand
According to Daily Mirror, Els claimed that people just didn’t understand his relationship with Humphrey.
“There’s a relationship between me and Humphrey and that’s what some people don’t understand,” he said, according to that publication.
“They think you can only have a relationship with dogs, cats and domestic animals.” He added: “I go in the water. He allows me to get on his back, and I ride him like a horse. He swims with me.”
In a May 2020 article on Els’s “horrific injuries,” the Mirror reported that Els was so “devoted to his unusual pet he even built him a huge lake on his farm so he could swim in his natural habitat.”
He had rescued Humphrey from a flood when the animal was a calf.
Marius Els was a former Army major. The Guardian reported in 2011 that Els’ wife was concerned about the hippo, which had grown so aggressive that it chased two people into a tree. The Guardian reported that hippos kill more people than many other dangerous animals combined, including lions and elephants, and they can move at an astonishing 30mph despite their girth.