A story that anyone could mistake from being a new fairytale is one where the two characters made an unlikely friendship. This is the story of when a baby hippo struck up a strange friendship with an extremely old tortoise. An orphaned baby hippopotamus was rescued after a natural disaster that shook the whole world and found a 130 old tortoise to be its friend. Though this sounds like it is completely fictional or a children’s story, the tale of Owen the hippo and Mzee the tortoise are completely true.
The animals are now both in the wards of Lafarge Ecosystem which is an animal wildlife sanctuary in Mombasa, Kenya. Dr. Paula Kahumbu is in charge and has told the story of the unlikely friendship many times to media outlets around the world.
December 2004, is when the story begins, just a normal quiet day when suddenly the ocean threatened to engulf the whole coast of Africa. The tide rose tremendously due to a tsunami that had started 4000 miles away from all the way in the Indian Ocean. It took 12 hours for the tsunami to hit the African coast from its starting point in Banda Aceh, but eventually, it did.
Of course, most people had seen the news and had ample time to find refuge from the waves, but a one-year-old hippopotamus was not so lucky. A strange case of heavy rains had washed a family of hippos down the Sabaki River out into the open sea. Locals tried their best to urge them back up the river inland, but when the sea becomes too rough they were forgotten as most efforts focused on saving stranded fishermen.
The next day, just one hippo was found stranded on a beach reef and it was a baby. It took ropes and boats, nets and even cars to rescue the hippo but eventually, it was done. In fact, one brave man had to rugby tackle the hippo to the floor to finally capture him for the rescue. Arriving in Mombasa at the sanctuary, Owen the hippo was tired and confused.
And of course, the hippo was extremely frightened, so upon release in Haller Park it immediately ran over to a 130-year-old tortoise and cowered behind him much like a baby hippo would do behind its mother. Mzee the tortoise was at first very confused, but after a few days also showed signs of affection.
The tortoise and the hippo now spend their days together taking walks around the park, and feeding together. Owen the hippo will eventually move to a bigger enclosure where there will be the possibility of socializing with more hippos.