There are an increasing amount of zoo and aquarium exhibits that encourage human and animal interaction under supervision. So perhaps that's why one Los Angeles Zoo-goer felt confident enough to hop over the walls of an enclosure and slap a hippo on its behind.
The act was caught on video by someone filming from across the exhibit, and it went viral on Twitter.
The clip has over 400,000 views, but contrary to the Twitter account name, this is not something to laugh at.
In fact, the Los Angeles Times reports there's a police investigation underway to find the man who dared to hit the hippo. The paper noted that it's illegal in California to enter a zoo enclosure, and police are seeking trespassing charges in the incident.
The video was posted on Aug. 7, and LiveScience reported that they still haven't found the culprit as of Aug. 18.
It's clear that the person in the video knows he's being filmed; he puts his finger to his lips in a "shh" motion and then carries out the offensive act.
Clearly even being caught on camera didn't dissuade him from his plan.
He then hops a fence, leans over the enclosure wall, and slaps Rosie, a 3-year-old hippo. The sound of the slap is audible, which means he had to have hit her fairly hard. It startled her mother Mara who looked up quickly as the man hopped back over the fence and ran away.
Zoo spokesperson April Spurlock told LiveScience that hippos may have thick skin, but they're also very sensitive, so it probably stung for Rosie to be hit.
The zoo is also upset because a surprise attack like this one can lead to distrust between the hippos and the zoo staff, according to what Spurlock told the Los Angeles Times. "It's an invasion of the trust we work so hard to build with these animals," she said.
No one should ever touch a wild animal in the open or at a zoo — because they're wild animals.
Duh. Why do we have to keep saying this?
Just like we've seen with recent incidents of nurse shark bites or the tragic example of Harambe the gorilla, animals can behave unpredictably, and it's up to us humans to leave them alone. Spurlock said as much to the Los Angeles Times:
"Any unauthorized interaction with an 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."
The zoo does offer a Hippo Encounter where, for $20, zoo patrons can pet the hippos through a fence, per CBS Los Angeles. PETA denounced this idea when it launched in 2016. The organization claimed that kind of interaction intruded on the animals' welfare.
And it could be risky for zoo-goers since hippos are extremely strong, dangerous creatures.
Obviously petting a hippo under zookeeper supervision and climbing over a guardrail to slap one are two different things, but it is interesting that the zoo promotes some level of physical interaction for monetary gain.
In any case, the zoo now has "no trespassing" signs outside the hippo's enclosure, according to the Los Angeles Times. It's the first time the zoo has taken such an action, because Spurlock said that it's not been needed before. "Most people know not to go in with the animals. It's common sense," she said.