JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – A young male hippopotamus has made a new home in a sewage plant, South African wildlife officials said Thursday.
The nearly 1,800-pound hippo wandered into Cape Town's Cape Flats Waste Water Treatment plant from an adjacent marsh after a fence was stolen, said Julia Wood, manager of the city's biodiversity program.
Wood said the 4-year-old hippo, named Zorro because of the zigzag scar on his back caused by his father's tusk during a fight, was "happy" in his new surroundings. He is living in the plant's pans — shallow pools once used to store untreated wastewater but made mostly redundant by new technology.
The pans now contain primarily clean water surrounded by grassy areas.
"There are big beautiful pans and lots of grazing," Wood said.
Wood said it is believed that Zorro had been on the run from his father, Brutus when he found the gap in the fence.
Young bull hippos will often get booted out of their herd after challenging the strongest male. In the wild, the young males move off and begin their own herds.
The sewage plant and the wetlands that surround it are part of the False Bay Coastal Park, one of the many nature reserves in a city famous for its flora and fauna. The wetland area is home to the only six hippos in Cape Town, where they were once numerous. The creatures, which are becoming endangered, were reintroduced 30 years ago.
Hippos are known to be violent, and Wood said the pans were being secured so that Zorro could not escape and become a threat to the public.
Wood said eventually Zorro would be captured and a new home found for him.
"Hippos are very sociable. We can't keep him on his own," she said.