Owen the baby hippo is adopted by 100-year-old giant tortoise

Click to follow
The Independent Online

A baby hippo rescued from flooding in Kenya has found comfort in the friendship of a 100-year-old tortoise.

A baby hippo rescued from flooding in Kenya has found comfort in the friendship of a 100-year-old tortoise.

Rangers found the one-year-old hippo, which they have christened Owen, alone and dehydrated near Kenya's Indian Ocean coast after he became separated from his herd.

They took him to a wildlife sanctuary in Mombasa where he soon found a male tortoise with the same dark grey colouring as adult hippos. The tortoise initially hissed at Owen, warning him to stay away, but according to park officials the pair have since become inseparable. The Aldabran tortoise, called Mzee, or "Old Man" in Swahili, now eats and sleeps next to Owen. Rangers say they could not have placed Owen with another herd of hippos as he would have been killed by an adult male. The park's tourism manager, Pauline Kimoto, told reporters: "Since Owen arrived on 27 December, the tortoise behaves like a mother to him. The hippo follows the tortoise around and licks his face."

The park's rehabilitation expert Sabine Baer says the baby hippo yearns for a family. "Owen has no way of knowing that the Aldabran tortoise is a male," she said. "He would not follow his father in the wild, so I think he is just desperate for a mother figure."

But the pair only have a little time left together. Once Owen has recovered, rangers plan to separate him from Mzee and place him with Cleo, a female hippo who lives in a nearby enclosure.

Kenyan rangers are getting used to seeing different species bonding with each other. In 2002, a lioness at Samburu National Park adopted a series of baby oryx, which are normally seen as food by lions. The lioness protected the oryx and roared with grief when one was eaten by a lion.

Comments