GRIFFITH PARK—Officials at the LA Zoo became aware last week of a video showing a man climbing a small fence and entering a hippopotamus enclosure, which has been circulating on social media. The video has prompted an investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department.
On August 7, the video was posted to the Twitter account @SomethingToLaughAt. Another zoo patron who was standing on the opposite side of the hippo enclosure filmed the video. The video currently has over 100,000 views.
The man in the video approached the two adult hippos and bent down so that he could reach Rosie, who is almost 4 years old. He then reached down into the area and slapped Rosie on the rear end. The loud noise made by the slap startled the younger hippo’s mother, Mara, who was standing next to her.
According to the Los Angeles Times, patrons at the zoo can pay $20 to experience limited interaction with the hippos. People are led by zoo staff, and have the ability to pet the hippos and see them up close, but with a barrier inbetween them.
April Spurlock, a spokeswoman for the LA Zoo addressed the incident in a public statement that read:
“Any unauthorized interaction with any animal is unsafe for the animal and potentially unsafe for the patron. It is never appropriate for anyone to attempt to have contact or interaction with any animal outside of our staff-led animal experiences.” Spurlock added, “Every animal is different and we don’t know exactly what they were thinking but it’s an invasion of the trust we work so hard to build with these animals.”
The Northeast Community Police Station is investigating the incident as a trespassing case, not as animal cruelty, because the animals were not seriously harmed. California state law indicates that people may not enter zoo enclosures, and violators can face a misdemeanor or an infraction.
“We seriously feel this was an isolated incident. Most people know not to go in with the animals. It’s common sense,” said Spurlock.
According to zoo officials, the last time a similar incident transpired was in 2011. The visitor passed two barriers in an attempt to get close to elephants, ABC News reported. The woman did not reach the animals and was not harmed before she was caught and arrested.