Humphrey, the hippo, had been raised “like a son” by farmer Marius Els since he was five months old.
The devoted animal lover from South Africa was so devoted to his unusual pet that he even built him a huge lake on his farm so he could swim in his natural environment.
Humphrey was saved from a flood as a baby. But when he grew too big for the people who had taken him in, Maurice intervened and gave him a home.
Humphrey was a beloved family member for many years. He seemed to love life on the 400-acre farm in the Free State province.
Maurice taught him to swim with people, a time he seemed to appreciate. He would feed Humphrey and even help brush his teeth.
The former army major said, “Humphrey is like a son to me, he’s like a human. There is a relationship between me and Humphrey and that is what some people don’t understand.
“They think you can only have a relationship with dogs, cats and pets. But I have a relationship with the most dangerous animal in Africa. “
Maurice was so safe with his pet that he was even depicted sitting on the back of the 1.2-ton hippo.
However, the farmer always insisted on knowing the risks of having such a dangerous animal as a pet – hippos are one of the deadliest animals in the world.
The seemingly clumsy animals are responsible for 500 human deaths each year and are the world’s deadliest land mammal.
They look clunky, but hippos have extremely sharp teeth and are aggressive animals.
Hippos are said to kill more people than lions, elephants, leopards, rhinoceroses and buffalo combined.
And in the months leading up to the fateful day when Humphrey changed from a loyal and loving pet to a killer, there are reports that the hippo behaved aggressively.
Maurice’s wife, Louise, is said to have warned her husband about the hippo.
In early 2011, according to reports in South Africa, a 52-year-old man and his grandson were canoeing on the river that flowed through Maurice’s farm.
Humphrey saw them and would have tried to chase them away. The pair had to be locked in a tree for two hours before Maurice arrived to lure his “pet” away with an apple.
He said, “I call him and he immediately responds to play with me. I give him apples. He opens his mouth. Large jaws and such teeth.
“It’s a bit dangerous, but I trust him with my heart that he won’t hurt anyone.
“I can swim with him. I’m going in the water. He lets me sit on his back and I ride him like a horse. He swims with me. “
And Maurice’s business partner claims Humphrey killed his calves.
Not only that, but the hippo also reportedly broke his enclosure regularly and walked to the local golf club where he chased those playing on the greens.
Maurice always insisted that the runaway hippo could always be brought back to the farm, but those who knew him and Humphrey were not convinced.
One of Maurice’s neighbors said, “We tried to warn him, but he wouldn’t listen.”
In November 2011, Humphrey completely turned against the man who saw him as a son.
He bit Maurice, while the farmer was found completely underwater in the river where Humphrey had been rescued six years earlier.
He had suffered terrible bite wounds and terrible injuries.
Paramedics were called, but by the time they arrived, Maurice was dead and nothing could be done to avoid him.
Jeffrey Wicks, a spokesperson for Netcare 911, a South African health care provider, said, “Paramedics responded to the scene and found that the man had been bitten by the animal several times.
“It was also immersed in the river for an unknown period.”