Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Tortoise & the Hippo

Heidi Lynn Staples has this picture on her blog. I have this picture on my fridge.

Tortoise Mothers Hippo After Tsunami
by Thea Monday, Jan. 31, 2005 at 1:31 PM

A baby Hippo that survived the Tsunami waves on the Kenyan coast snuggles close a giant century old tortoise in an animal facility in Mombasa. The Kenyan government plans to send hundreds of exotic and endangered animals to Thailand in a wildlife swap that drew harsh criticism from conservationists and concern from tourism officials.

NAIROBI (AFP) - 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.

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 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.

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Hippos make a variety of grunts, growls, screams, and other sounds while they are underwater to communicate.

Hippopotamuses live in groups of fifteen or more. These groups are primarily females and their young headed up by a dominant male. In the water or resting ashore, hippos tolerate even closer contact than pigs, regularly using neighbors as head rests. Female hippos will take turns "babysitting" large groups of baby hippos. During a fight, male hippopotamuses ram each other with their mouths open using there heads as sledgehammers, which brings their canines into play, and using their lower jaw to throw water at each other.

Hippos can "gallop" up to 18 miles per hour.