Surreal Images of Hippos and Bears Caught in Devastating Georgian Floods

12 people are dead in flooding that devastated Tbilisi's zoo.


Devastating floods struck the Georgian capital of Tbilisi over the weekend, hitting the city’s zoo hard and releasing many of its animals onto the city’s streets. The images coming out of Tbilisi are extraordinary. A hippopotamus being herded past a gas station. The drowned corpses of bears. Policemen armed with hunting rifles roaming Tbilisi.

Images of wild animals wandering city streets inevitably bring to mind the biblical story of Noah and his efforts to save the world’s animals before the great flood. Watching Georgians herd a hippopotamus, one gains a new appreciation for the enormity of Noah’s task:

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that Patriarch Ilia II, the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church, saw the destruction as just retribution for his church’s persecution during Soviet rule. “When the Communist government established itself in Georgia, it began melting church and monastery bells for profit and the zoo was founded by such means,” he told worshipers. “As such, the zoo in its current location is bound to [fail]. It needs to be relocated to a different place, as it was founded on sin and such acts are generally followed by punishment.”

The images of extreme flooding and the sudden arrival of bears and hyenas on the streets of a modern city also brings to mind a more plausible apocalypse: the predictions of what will happen if climate change continues unchecked and the world’s oceans continue their rise. Is what we are seeing in Tbilisi a window onto our shared future? Twelve people have died in the flooding that caused many of the zoo’s animals to escape.

As sea levels rise, the American city of Miami is at risk of finding itself underwater over the next century. Will we next see the Miami Zoo’s Malayan sun bears trapped atop an air conditioning unit as happened to a bear in Tbilisi?


Other bears fared far worse:


Another sneak-peak at our post-apocalyptic future: shooting hippos with tranquilizer guns outside the Swatch store.


Perhaps one day these images will be quite commonplace.


Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering cyberspace. @EliasGroll

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