Modimolle, Limpopo - He was supposed to be the good news story in a week dominated by death and mourning.
A happy tale with an even happier ending, a one-ton hippo hoisted from a swimming pool and taken to a farm with many dams, where he would start a new stress-free life.
But by yesterday morning the story wasn’t going to script: Solly the hippo was acting a lot differently than the day before. He was clearly more stressed, he lay on his side - most of the time with his eyes closed. As it got later and hotter, Solly became less responsive to those around him.
“This animal is not going to get out of this alive; the stress is going to kill him,” animal rights activist Selomie Maritz said.
The plan was to have Solly out of the pool by 9am, yesterday. The game capturer Simon Prinsloo wanted to pump out all the water in the pool, before the vet Alex Lewis arrived. He left just over a foot of water in the pool.
This was day three in the pool for Solly. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, Solly had fallen into the pool at Monate Game Lodge, near Modimolle, in Limpopo. It is suspected that he was chased out of the pod of hippos at a nearby dam. He had been seen wandering around the area for days.
But Lewis was delayed when he had to go and help a Sable antelope give birth. Prinsloo left enough water in the pool for the hippo. He then kept the hippo cool by spraying its exposed back with water from a hosepipe.
On a few occasions Solly tried to get onto his feet and lift himself up but was unable to do so. He would then slam his head against the bottom of the pool. At 10.45am, Solly lifted his head for the last time. In front of both national and international media his legs stiffened for a few moments, there was a slight tremor in his left hind leg, then he went limp. The first journalists realised something was amiss was when the game capturers began asking one another if the hippo was dead.
Eight minutes later Lewis arrived. He placed harnesses around the carcass and hoisted it up with the crane.
Many blamed Lewis for Solly’s death. “If the vet had come out yesterday, he would have had a better chance of survival. If he couldn’t make it, I would have made another plan,” said a tearful Ruby Ferreira, the manageress of Monate Game Lodge.
Lewis countered by saying that the hippo was in a bad condition, and had not been eating well for days. “The cause of death, was its poor condition,” he said. Lewis added that it was unlikely the animal would have survived been darted. There will be a postmortem.
The plan now, said Ferreira, was to make the pool Solly fell into animal friendly by adding steps. She then wants to call it Solly’s pool in honour of the hippo.
Ben Trovato ?@BTrovato
The Americans put a beach buggy on Mars. We can’t get a hippo out of a swimming pool without killing it.
South Africa’s Solly the hippo goes “to the big pool-at-the-5-star-game-lodge in the sky”.
Oliver Hermanus ?@OliverHermanus
Julius Malema calls for the resignation of the president in light of Solly the hippo’s death. A charge of murder has also been laid with God.