Many zoo animals are often said to be psychologically disturbed or feel restricted because they are not meant to be bred in captivity. And, when people come face-to-face with these animals, well, it can result in unimaginable chaos. However, there are also many stories about people who fell into zoo enclosures or came into contact with zoo animals, but lived on to tell their stories.
The Man Who Survived a Hippo Attack
Richard McCormic is a man who grew up in Coventry. In 1966, he went to live in Harrogate and there, he got lucky and was employed by the city’s Whitley Zoo. In the beginning, he was tasked with taking care of parrots and then after a month, he was given the responsibility of an elephant, a few bears and a hippo called Harry. It was his official first job right after leaving school and despite being new to it, he claimed that he loved and enjoyed it…until the accident.
One of Richard’s common tasks included cleaning out the hippo’s cage. He would usually go open the cage, step inside and give the hippo a scrub with a big brush. One day, while opening the door to Harry’s cage, a safety barrier came off and the large and heavy door flew open and hit the hippo on the bum.
Let’s take a look at Richard’s statement to know what happened next:
“Once the door hit him, Harry ran towards me furiously and I didn’t have enough time to run away. He grabbed my head between his jaws and started dragging me all the way to his pool. Back then, I felt my ribs crack and it took away my breath. I really thought I was going to die. But, luckily a few weeks ago, Harry had had his tusk removed, otherwise, his tusk would have gone right through my flesh.
So, hanging from his jaw, I screamed and screamed until John (John Vose – the then head keeper of the zoo) heard me. He came and hit the hippo with a huge iron bar. Only then did Harry open his mouth and drop me to the ground. I ran over to the wall for safety. I still remember that I kept screaming on and on, thinking that my back was completely damaged. But, then the doctors told me that I only had my ribs, collarbone and liver punctured.
It took me a while – approximately two months –to recover completely, but during that time, I became a celebrity. My face was on all national newspapers and I became known as the first and only British person to have survived a hippo attack. I even received letters from different countries.”
I guess this story or rather this accident would follow Richard all his life!
A Repeat of the Cincinnati Incident in UK
This incident took place in 1986 at the Jersey Zoo. Levan Merritt was then a five-year-old boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure. Upon falling, the little boy lost consciousness and started bleeding. The unmoving child was then approached by Jambo, a male gorilla. I’m sure like many, you’d expect that he’d behaved violently, but instead, he sat down quietly and guarded the bleeding child (perphaps, protecting him from other aggressive gorillas). Eventually, the little boy gained consciously and started crying out loud, which alerted the keepers. The child’s cries scared off Jambo and provided an opportunity for the keepers to safely retriever the kid.
The then head keeper of apes said the following:
“I still remember how the silverback gorilla just sat there as people started shouting and screaming. He looked up once as if to say, ‘’why are you making so much noise.’ For seven years, I’ve worked with these gorillas and I know them very well. This is why I can tell you that I never once thought that the child was in any danger from the gorillas.”