One year after a devastating flood that killed 21 people and sent zoo animals into the streets of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, both the city’s zoo and its famous wandering hippopotamus, Begi, are back in shape.
On June 13, 2015, flood waters lifted Begi and other animals out of their downtown enclosures, creating an apocalyptic tableau of a city of 1.1 million people overrun by water and beasts. Some 230 animals drowned or were shot by police to prevent attacks on humans. Still, one man was mauled to death by an escaped tiger three days after the disaster.
It was on that tragic night that Begi (“hippo”) offered comic relief as he sauntered around a central highway that cuts through the heart of Tbilisi. Next morning, he was sighted passing stately by a downtown Swatch store, pausing to munch phlegmatically on tree leaves. A tranquilizer and some impromptu volunteers, herding him like a cow, eventually returned Begi to the zoo.
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Giorgi Lomsadze is a freelance journalist based in Tbilisi. He is a frequent contributor to EurasiaNet.org's Tamada Tales blog.