A giant tortoise and an orphaned baby hippo who forged an unusual friendship after the 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia are the stars of a new Web site so fans can follow their progress.
Mzee, a 130-year-old Aldabran tortoise, became a surrogate parent and inseparable friend to hippo Owen who was washed out to sea off the coast of Kenya, rescued by villagers and taken to a wildlife park where the tortoise lived.
The devastating Indian Ocean tsunami that hit in December 2004 left 230,000 people killed or missing, including 170,000 in Indonesia.
The animals' friendship came to international attention when New York-based father and daughter team, Craig and Isabella Hatkoff, teamed up with the park's chief environmentalist Paula Kahumbu to write a book about the pair, "Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship."
They have now released a second book, published by Scholastic, chronicling the deepening friendship, with Owen and Mzee living, sleeping and playing together, but also creating a language of their own.
"They have created sounds unique to hippo or to tortoise and use gentle nods and pushes to communicate with one another," said a spokeswoman from Scholastic which has just released
"Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship."
The second installment in the animals' story follows their remarkable friendship at Haller Park Animal Sanctuary near Mombasa, Kenya, which is operated by Lafarge EcoSystems, a unit of Kenyan cement maker Bamburi
But as well as updating readers on the friendship, Hatkoff's publishing company, Turtle Pond Publications, this week also launched Web site www.owenandmzee.com to update fans on the animals with a weekly blog from caretaker Stephen Tuei.
"Their true story that borders on the unbelievable teaches us many beautiful lessons on many levels," said Hatkoff in a statement.
"The Web site allows us to continually update the public on the pair's current developments and offers kids new set of online creativity resources and applications at the same time."
A BABY hippopotamus, swept into the Indian Ocean by the tsunami, is finally coming out of his shell thanks to the love of a 120-year-old tortoise.
Owen, a 300kg, 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".
"When we released Owen into the enclosure, he lumbered to the tortoise which has a dark grey colour similar to grown up hippos," Sabine Baer, rehabilitation and ecosystems manager at the park, told Reuters on Thursday.
Haller Park ecologist Paula Kahumbu said the pair were now inseparable.
"After it was swept and lost its mother, the hippo was traumatized. 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 was left at a very tender age. Hippos are social animals that like to stay with their mothers for four years."
She said the hippo's chances of survival in another herd were very slim, predicting that a dominant male would have killed him.
Officials are hopeful Owen will befriend a female hippo called Cleo, also a resident at the park.
Tsunami tragedy has happy ending
A baby hippo that survived the tsunami is finally getting a new mother. Owen was swept away when the tsunami struck the Kenyan coast last Christmas, but was rescued by Haller Park Sanctuary in Mombassa. Traumatised, the hippo latched on to a male giant century-old tortoise called Mzee, and pair bonded like mother and son. Now, more than a year later zoo staff have given up trying to do anything to separate this odd couple so are introducing a new hippo member to this family, Cleo, to teach Owen hippo stuff.
Zoo keeper's blog http://www.lafargeecosystems.com/main/blog.php
Baby Hippo - Tsunami orphan.... new photos
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. "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 traumatized. 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.
This is a real story that shows that our differences don't matter much when we need the comfort of another. We could all learn a lesson from these two creatures of God, Look beyond the differences and find a way to walk the path together.