Personnel from Aquila Private Game Reserve successfully captured a rogue male hippopotamus during a special operation. Unbeknown to guests at Aquila over the last while, the conservation teams had monitored a rogue male hippo after he was forced out of the large pod.
Being left to his own devices on the approximately 10 000 hectare conservancy, the rangers were alerted to the scene where the male hippo had attacked one of the recently born baby hippo at the reserve. Their efforts dispersed the attack, and to their relief the baby hippo survived.
According to management, “the incident necessitated the support of a game capture unit to locate, capture and translocate the male. The search commenced at approximately 16:30”.
Game capture specialist, Gerald Minnaar, and pilot, Kobus Crous, said “we were searching for the hippo and had no idea that he was practically below the helicopter. He weighed about 1.5 ton”. The animal was transported by truck to his new home.
International photographer, Albert Jansen Van Rosendaal, had the amazing opportunity to record the moment the teams identified the male hippo. According to his eye witness account, “it was a spectacular moment! The hippo launched itself from underwater and attacked the airborne helicopter. It was a completely unexpected scenario”.
At the time of capture, Aquila representative Ben Viljoen, noted that the animal had lacerations and various other wounds due to pod fights over the last while. “The hippo’s wounds were suspected to be serious, due to the fights within the pod as he was a very aggressive hippo that had challenged and injured many of the other male hippos. He had also previously killed two calves, hence the decision to do a search mission in daylight. Capturing a hippo during the day is difficult as tranquilising darts are not recommended because the hippos normally rush back to the water for protection and they could drown under these circumstances.”
Hippopotamus were historically common in the Western Cape but were exterminated by the 1800s. The hippos at Aquila form part of a large pod that was reintroduced to the area over 18 years ago to provide a place where they can live in the wild and interact naturally. As a responsible conservation effort, Aquila tries to regularly exchange or purchase new genetic blood lines to maintain a healthy gene pool.
Several years ago Aquila’s long standing hippo conservation efforts in the Western Cape also involved assisting Cape Nature to catch the illusive and infamous hippo, aptly named “Houdini” that escaped Zeekoeivlei. In this effort, Aquila also sponsored the veterinarians from the Kruger National Park, together with a costly land, air and water borne search and rescue of the hippo that plagued and threatened the residents of Zeekoeivlei, Cape Town.
Aquila, as an established private game reserve in the Western Cape since 1986, manages a very fragile ecosystem and intense veld regeneration project – with conservation its main focus. “Operations like these, strengthen our core conservation ethos and ability, and we will continue to invest in wildlife rehabilitation, reintroduction and conservation” Searl Derman concluded.