NAIROBI (AFP) – A baby hippopotamus that survived the tsunami waves on the Kenyan coast has formed a strong bond with a giant male century-old tortoise, in an animal facility in the port city of Mombassa, officials said. The hippopotamus, nicknamed “Owen”, and weighing about 300 kilograms (650 pounds), was swept down Sabaki River into the Indian Ocean then forced back to shore when tsunami waves struck the Kenyan coast on December 26, before wildlife rangers rescued him.
“It is incredible! A less-than-a-year-old hippo has adopted a male tortoise, about a century old, and the tortoise seems to be very happy with being a ‘mother’,” ecologist Paula Kahumbu, who is in charge of Lafarge Park, told AFP.
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A year after they first met, Owen, the baby hippo that survived last December’s Tsunami, and Mzee, a 130-year-old tortoise are still best pals. They live together at the Haller Park preserve in Mombasa, Kenya.
Last year when Owen first arrived, the tortoise resisted his companionship, but the persistent Owen kept following him around the park, into the pool and trying to sleep next to him. Mzee relented after several days. As the bond grew, the tortoise even returned signs of affection. They are now inseparable.
Conservation workers soon plan to introduce Owen to a 13-year-old female hippo named Cleo, hoping to see the two develop a strong relationship. The female hippo has lived without companionship from her species for more than a decade. The delicate process will begin with getting the two animals to meet and get used to each other’s smell before they move them into a larger enclosure together with the tortoise.