Thursday, February 1, 2007

Baby Hippo Swept Into Ocean Takes Tortoise As Mother

Owen, a 661 pound, one-year-old hippo, was swept down the Sabaki River, into the ocean and then back to shore when the giant waves struck the Kenyan coast. The dehydrated hippo was found by wildlife rangers and taken to the Haller Park animal facility in the port city of Mombasa. Pining for his lost mother, Owen quickly befriended a giant male Aldabran tortoise named Mzee - Swahili for "old man".

After it was swept and lost its mother, the hippo was traumatized. It had to look for something to be a surrogate mother. When Owen was released into an enclosure, he lumbered towards a tortoise which has a dark grey colour similar to grown up hippos, and established a strong bond. The pair are inseparable. They swim, eat and sleep together. 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.

Hippos are social animals that like to stay with their mothers for four years. The hippo's chances of survival in another herd would be very slim, since a dominant male would have killed him. Officials are hopeful Owen will befriend a female hippo called Cleo, also a resident at Haller Park. See photos of the pair.

Alert! Be sure to click on the link at the bottom for photos a year later. Owen has grown quite a bit since the rescue.

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