The Hippopotamus and the Tortoise

Owen, the hippopotamus.

This story made the rounds in January, 2005 when it first broke, but I never saw it. I couldn’t resist posting it here now.

(Text and images from an email I recently received, and assorted web sources. FYI: SNOPES says it’s mostly a true story)

…Some news accounts (including the one sped from inbox to inbox in early 2005) asserted the orphaned hippo was swept into the sea by the tsunami that devastated numerous coastal countries in the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004, yet wildlife officials were alerted to the imperiled hippo before Christmas, when hoteliers in Malindi spotted the little fellow, in the company of a number of adults of his kind, foundering in the surf off the coast. By the time wildlife officials arrived, Owen was alone, having become separated from his herd. Had he not been rescued, the ocean’s waters would have done in the youngster because long immersion in salt water would have led to fatal dehydration.

The dehydrated hippo was found by wildlife rangers and taken to the Haller Park animal facility in the port city of Mombasa.

Owen, and Mzee.

Pining for his lost mother, Owen quickly befriended a giant male Aldabran tortoise named Mzee – Swahili for “old man”.

Owen, and Mzee.

“When we released Owen into the enclosure, he lumbered to the tortoise which has a dark grey colour similar to grown up hippos,” Sabine Baer, rehabilitation and ecosystems manager at the park, told Reuters on Thursday.

Owen, and Mzee.

Haller Park ecologist Paula Kahumbu said the pair were now inseparable.

“After it was swept and lost its mother, the hippo was traumatized. It had to look for something to be a surrogate mother. Fortunately, it landed on the tortoise and established a strong bond. They swim, eat and sleep together,” the ecologist added.

Owen, and Mzee.

“The hippo follows the tortoise exactly the way it follows its mother. If somebody approaches the tortoise, the hippo becomes aggressive, as if protecting its biological mother,” Kahumbu added.

“The hippo was left at a very tender age. Hippos are social animals that like to stay with their mothers for four years.”

Owen, and Mzee.

She said the hippo’s chances of survival in another herd were very slim, predicting that a dominant male would have killed him.

Officials are hopeful Owen will befriend a female hippo called Cleo, also a resident at the park.

One Response to “The Hippopotamus and the Tortoise”

  1. Poyee, as I mentioned in the post, these images came to me in an email. I’m sure that a quick internet search will produce their origin.

    Good luck with your book.