Hippo Causes Scare at Village

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By Chrispin Inambao KATIMA MULILO A hippo almost lived up to its ferocious reputation as the beast that kills the most people in Africa when a stray pachyderm from a nearby lake chased a villager into his hut, forcing other villagers to scamper in various directions to get out of harm’s way. Some villagers were so petrified by the nightmarish experience they dove under beds in their huts, while others evaded sudden death by climbing up trees and rooftops. The close encounter of a scary kind at a settlement outside Katima Mulilo lasted for several hours before it ended when game warders licensed to gun down trouble animals, pumped several high-calibre, soft-nosed rounds that killed the amphibian. The mid-day drama took place last Wednesday at Magalani Village in the Iseke in Katima Rural Constituency where elephants and hyenas also have a field day particularly during nocturnal hours when they are relatively hyperactive. Recounting the drama, villagers from Kapani neighbour-ing Magalani presently rendered inaccessible by present heavy rainfall, said the rogue beast passed through their village at around 05h00 and headed for Magalani. At Magalani, its presence was only detected when villagers heard some strange noise coming from an area near a manual water pump. When they went to investigate, the giant beast charged at them with lightning speed. One of the villagers bolted towards a hut. Once in the hut, he impulsively dashed into the bedroom and miraculously the hippo missed him by inches as the giant strangely squeezed its massive body through the hut door. But as if by divine intervention, it failed to pull a similar stunt as it battled to get into the bedroom where the villager who was distraught climbed a pillar supporting the roof. A child fast asleep on a reed mat in the room awakened from his slumber to a real-life nightmare as the hippo was just a few metres away from him. The man who was safely out of harm’s way instructed the child to lie still as the animal’s unnerving gaze was fixed on the man. Shortly after, the animal moved out of the hut, leaving several pieces of broken furniture, according to villagers. Instead of retreating to a nearby pond, the hippo again chased other villagers who climbed Mopani trees while others got under their beds. A pack of scrawny dogs at Magalani headed by Fidelis Sinvula barked from a safe distance. One villager shot at the animal and it entered a kraal where it stayed for several hours. An alarm was raised when villagers walked on foot for two hours to Bukalo where they alerted Environment and Tourism officials who tracked and shot the animal. But the drama had a sad ending. One of the villagers who flocked to the scene when word about the fresh kill got out nearly had a left hand hacked off by an axe as villagers in a state of frenzy scrambled for meat, cutting the carcass into pieces. A resident of the area, Albert Kahale Maswahu, who recounted the ordeal said Magalani residents were given a hind quarter, while the people from Maswahu, who raised the alarm were almost left out as they merely received the beast’s head. When New Era visited the area, what remained of the hippo at Kapani was its massive skull and stringy pieces of hippo meat neatly laid out to dry on a wash line. Inhabitants of the area say it is suicidal to move around particularly at night because there is always the danger of wild animals. To illustrate their point, they said Morris Sampaya Maswahu, the headman of Kapani died last year on November 16 after he was gored by a marauding bull elephant. Environment officials finally shot the culprit pachyderm that fitted the description of one reportedly involved in similar scary incidents after it charged at vehicles that were in a funeral procession for its November victim. When the headman was killed, he was looking after a herd of cattle. The only compensation the headman’s family received was the meat from the elephant after it was butchered. Ivory tusks from the beast were given to community-run Salambala Conservancy. Hyenas, brown-backed jackals and prides of lions are also said to have killed and devoured several livestock at several villages where villagers are embittered by crop losses being caused by the exploding number of elephants. In a separate incident chronicled recently, a villager in the Kasika area also had a close encounter with a buffalo when the animal gored and inflicted some wounds on his body with its hooves. At the time of the incident, the unfortunate villager who suffered concussion plus a gash that bled profusely was working a crop field.