Surfing hippos & tree-climbing goats: 8 animals in the most unlikely places

23 May 2018

One of the joys of going on holiday is getting to see the amazing flora and fauna of foreign lands. Just occasionally, however, you come across something that seems somehow out of place. How, for example, did African hippos find themselves thriving in South America? Why are there so many camels wondering around in Australia? 

Read on to find out! 

Hippos in Colombia

If you’re a fan of the gripping Netflix show "Narcos", you’ll be aware of the onetime drug lord Pablo Escobar and his rather excessive tastes. At one point he decided to start up his own private zoo in the grounds of his mansion, complete with elephants, giraffes and hippos. When his hacienda was eventually confiscated by the authorities, the exotic pets were sent off for re-homing at zoos. But not the hippos - they escaped into the nearby Magdalena River and made it their home, thriving there to this very day.  


Free-swimming pigs of the Bahamas

On a desert island in Exumas you’ll find “Pig Beach”, where pigs are known to go swimming. There are numerous theories on how they got there - some say they were left there by sailors, some are convinced it’s a porky reimagining of the TV show "Lost", and some wonder whether it’s a deliberate ruse by the local government to attract tourists. 


Barbary macaques in Gibraltar

If you’re looking for the only wild monkey population in Europe, head to Gibraltar where there are loads of them. The animals are now synonymous with the Rock, but it's easy to forget they didn't originate from there. Their origins have been lost in the mists, but the most logical explanation is that the Moors from North Africa – who ruled Gibraltar between 711 and 1462 - kept them as pets and they stayed behind and multiplied.


Body-surfing hippos of Gabon

If you go down to the beach in Gabon, it won’t be sun-worshippers spread across the white paradise sands that you'll see - it’ll be hippos. The vast portly animals are known to frequent the Loango National Park (away from the nearby forests and mangroves) and as far as anyone can tell it's because they like riding the waves here. National Geographic even called the area “the land of the surfing hippos”. As if that wasn't strange enough, there's also a good chance of seeing gorillas and elephants strolling along the beach here.  


Parakeets in London

In numerous parks around south and west London you’ll find bright parrots squawking from the treetops, and no one can quite agree on how they got there. The numbers skyrocketed in the mid-90s with rumours that breeding parakeets had escaped from captivity (or had been liberated) – while one piece of folklore goes that Jimi Hendrix was somehow behind it.


Morocco's tree-climbing goats 

You’re probably used to seeing goats grazing in fields, but over in Morocco they are more likely to be seen climbing up argan trees, looking for food. It’s a trick they’ve been perfecting for hundreds of years, having twigged that there wasn’t much in the way of sustenance in the arid landscape. 


Feral camels of Australia

It was the Danish-French geographer Conrad Malte-Brun who first suggested that Australia, with its vast expanse of desert to roam, import some camels to help with any exploring. Fast forward a few years and now you’ll find nearly a million of the feral humpies wandering about the place. They’re held in less high regard these days, and are viewed more as pests. 


Giraffes at your breakfast table

Seeing giraffes in Africa might not be that unusual. But having them poke their rather large heads in through the window while you're tucking into a bowl of cereal certainly is. That's exactly what happens at Giraffe Manor, a boutique hotel set in a colonial mansion in Nairobi, Kenya. The friendly animals turn up at mealtimes hoping for tasty treats!  


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