Thailand isn’t usually associated with big game hunting. There aren’t wildebeest or giraffe roaming the central plains. The few remaining wild elephants, tigers and gaur are highly elusive, confined to the depths of the forest, protected in national parks. However, in Chiang Mai there is a new sport, hippo hunting. But let me begin at the beginning…
It is said that if sleeping were an Olympic sport, the Thais would win, hands down, every time. Thai people have an innate ability to sleep anywhere, any time. Oft has been the time that I’ve been white-knuckled with terror as a crazed minivan driver has been weaving in and out of traffic at high speed on the Asia Highway whilst the passenger next to me has been in the land of nod, his or her head falling on my shoulder. It’s therefore not surprising that security guards are often caught snoozing. Unfortunately, one such guard was supposed to be keeping an eye on a sick baby hippo (a one month old female) in intensive care at a zoo hospital in Chiang Mai. Whilst he was asleep the baby hippo wandered off. Footprints show she headed towards a large forest area which forms part of the zoo grounds. More than a hundred people – zoo keepers and volunteers – have been searching for her, so far to no avail. It is thought she is unlikely to survive if not retaken quickly.
Update (8 December)
After a week searching the baby hippo was found dead, less than 100 metres from the hospital.