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KC Zoo says boys taunted hippos and survived

By AP/KWMU

Kansas City, MO – The Kansas City Zoo says it will press charges against two St. Louis boys who are accused of climbing into the hippo exhibit and throwing rocks at the animals.

Zoo officials didn't see it happen, but a witness says the hippos got mad and charged the boys, who were not hurt.

The zoo's director, Randy Wisthoff, says the antics were an effort to impress a girl.

He says both boys are 14 years old.

The massive hippos spend much of their days submerged in water and are often considered one of the most dangerous animals in the world.

Wisthoff said when security guards arrived, the boys were outside the hippo enclosure and tried to run away, but the guards caught them. He also says none of the three paid admission to the zoo and had sneaked in.

"We're going to prosecute whenever we can when people do stupid things," Wisthoff said. "Everything here is wild. They're behind fences for a reason. There's a reason you don't let people go in with hippos or elephants or tigers or giraffes."

The Kansas City Zoo has two female adult hippos, which were not harmed. Their enclosure consists of a water tank and a pathway to their holding barn.

Hippos, native to Africa, are the third-largest land animals, after elephants and white rhinos. They can weigh up to 3 1/2 tons and are plant eaters.

John Davis, a national expert on hippos, said it was a crazy stunt, considering the animals' weight and that they can run faster than the average human, at least for short distances.

"If they do feel threatened, their size, intelligence, speed and teeth enable them to enforce their territory," said Davis, who keeps track of the 118 captive hippos in North America as curator of mammals at Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina.

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