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Tsunami-surviving hippo seeks solace in a tortoise

A baby-hippopotamus that survived the tsumani waves on the Kenyan coast has formed a strong bond with a giant male century-old tortoise, in an animal facility in Mombasa
PTI | By Press Trust of India, Nairobi
UPDATED ON JAN 07, 2005 01:21 PM IST

A baby-hippopotamus that survived the tsumani 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 Mombasa, officials said today.

The hippopotamus, nicknamed Owen and weighing about 300 kilograms, was swept down Sabaki River into the Indian Ocean, then forced back to shore when tsumani 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.

"After it was swept and lost its mother, the hippo was traumatised. 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.

"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 is a young baby, he was left at a very tender age and by nature, hippos are social animals that like to stay with their mothers for four years," he explained.

In 2002, a barren Kenyan lioness made several attempts to play mother to baby antelopes, one of which ended with a rival lion making a meal out of the calf, and the others when rangers separated the animals.

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