Image: Nikica and Lucky, two hippopotamuses.
Risto Bozovic  /  AP file
Female hippo Nikica, pictured left, escaped from a flooded private zoo in southern Montenegro on Tuesday, shocking villagers who found her jaunting around their homes.
updated 1/12/2010 10:06:46 AM ET 2010-01-12T15:06:46

A hippo escaped from a flooded private zoo in Montenegro on Tuesday, shocking villagers who found her strolling near their homes.

Even more shocking, the zoo owner plans to wait a bit before trying to recapture the 2-ton hippo named Nikica.

Nikica escaped as heavy rains sent water flooding through the zoo, raising the water level in her pen and allowing her to swim over the top of the cage surrounding it. The 11-year-old hippo made her way to the hamlet of Plavnica on Skadar Lake in southern Montenegro, where she was still walking around Tuesday afternoon.

"When I got out from my house to feed my cow, I saw a hippo standing in front of the stall," said villager Nikola Radovic. "I thought I was going mad."

The massive animals, which spend much of their days submerged in water, are considered one of the most dangerous animals in the world.

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. They are also intelligent, fiercely territorial, can run faster than the average human over short distances, and have powerful teeth and jaws.

But zoo owner Dragan Pejovic said he plans to wait until the water levels drops before he attempts to recapture Nikica.

"Of course, we will not be able to bring her back until the water recedes," he said, without further explanation. "There is no reason for panic."

"Our hippo is a peaceful and tame animal," Pejovic said, adding that she had lived in his zoo for nine years without causing any trouble to villagers.

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