Residents live in fear of hippo

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

Residents of Verulam in KwaZulu-Natal and surrounding areas have been warned to be extra vigilant and immediately report if they come across "Nonkululeko" - a hippo on the loose.

The hippo is believed to have claimed the life of Ben Dlamini, 60, a gardener in the area.

Dlamini was found with wounds to his head and neck on Saturday. Police are investigating the possibility that he was killed by the hippo.

Residents now fear for their safety and that of their children when going to or coming from school.

They are demanding that the hippo be immediately removed from their area before it claims another life. A Waterloo resident said since she had heard about the wandering hippo, she had decided not to let her child go out of her sight.

"Now that the schools have reopened, I am even more worried, anything can happen," said a concerned parent.

People in the area use a gravel road to get to nearby shops in Verulam, and many children use the same road to get to schools.

Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife spokesman Jeff Gaisford said the matter was out of their hands now that the hippo was on eThekwini Municipality area.

"We are not sure where it came from, but we suspect that it came from Richards Bay. We cannot even advise on how she should be managed," he said.

A postmortem would be conducted to determine the cause of Dlamini's death. "At this stage we cannot say for sure if the hippo was responsible for Dlamini's death," police spokesman Muzi Mngomezulu said yesterday.

Residents spotted the hippo grazing close to the Umdloti River recently and called the authorities. It was believed to be Nonkululeko, the hippo that has been making appearances on the North Coast, including swimming in the sea, for the past few weeks.

Attempts last week by Wildlife officials to shoot the hippo failed when they were stopped by residents and an animal rights group.

eThekwini Municipality has now given the group, Animal Rights Africa, 14 days to capture the animal.