News of the Weird: Drug lord's territory is hippo haven

  • Updated: August 1, 2014 - 4:16 PM

The African hippopotamus is not found in South America — except for the estimated 50-some that, confusingly to natives, roam the Colombian countryside between Bogotá and Medellín. The animals are the progeny of the four smuggled in 30 years ago by cocaine king Pablo Escobar, who generously established a grand, exotic zoo for his neighbors’ enjoyment after his drug business took off (and before he was gunned down in 1993). However, as BBC News reported in June, hippo meat is inedible, and without their African natural enemies, they breed with astonishing prolificness — thus creating a “time bomb” for Colombia.

Spare change

A former city official in Ridgewood, N.J., pleaded guilty in July to stealing nearly 2 million quarters collected from parking meters, with no one noticing for two years. Under a plea deal, Thomas Rica will likely be spared jail provided he repays half of what he stole.

Career change

British lawyer Gary Stocker, 30, was headed to the top of the profession with an Oxford education and a six-figure salary — when he decided instead to become a circus’ human cannonball. He is now the Great Herrmann in Chaplin’s Circus under a 1,400-seat tent in the city of St. Albans, England. Stocker told the Daily Mail in May, “Being in a circus is what I was destined for” and that “Perhaps I only went to Oxford to please my mum.” Chaplin’s show tells the story of a failing circus revived by the invention of the first “human cannon.”

First-world problems

Update: U.S. obesity continues to grow — for pets as well as people — and exercise innovations for humans seem to trickle down to dogs. A July Associated Press report noted that fat Labradors and poodles now have Pilates (“pawlates”) and yoga (“doga”) and even play “Barko Polo” in the pool, while Morris Animal Inn offers five-day fitness camps for dogs ($249) in Morristown, N.J. (More cats than dogs are overweight, but getting cats to the gym is perhaps beyond human capability.)

The new normal

In June, as Elizabeth Neufeld, 85, was backing her car out of her driveway in Bel Air, Calif., it tipped on a curve and rolled onto its side. Elizabeth was not hurt, but was trapped inside while her husband, Benjamin, 87, got out on his own. As they awaited firefighters, she reportedly handed a cellphone to a passerby so that the Neufelds would have a photo (which made the Internet, with Elizabeth having righted herself in the driver’s seat and Benjamin standing sheepishly alongside). (Dr. Elizabeth Neufeld, retired, is one of the world’s most prominent genetics researchers, having won numerous awards during stints at the National Institutes of Health, University of California, Berkeley and UCLA.)

Recurring themes

By now, many in the United Kingdom have such exaggerated concern for “health and safety” that they are sensitive to even the tiniest, most far-fetched risks. In June, organizers of a dog show in Keswick drew up a list of 25 tests for dogs to perform in competition, but two had to be scrapped (supposedly for fear of lawsuits): biscuit-catching by the dog (canceled unless sponsors can be assured that dogs will try to catch biscuits only while seated) and Frisbee-catching (canceled outright for fear that dogs could injure their backs). (Indeed, in a previous U.K. dog show, an out-of-shape dog did hurt its back leaping for a Frisbee.)

Readers’ choice

Bill Hillmann, 32, expert on Spain’s bull-running events and author of a chapter in “How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona” (the most famous festival), was hospitalized in July after being gored during the run, with the horn passing through one thigh, missing his femoral artery by a centimeter. He told the Chicago Tribune from his hospital bed that he would be back for the next one.

 

Read News of the Weird daily at www.weirduniverse.net. Send items to weirdnews@earthlink.net.

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