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On December 26, 2004 tsunami flood waters in the East African country of Kenya swept a herd of hippopotamuses down the Sabaki River and into the Indian Ocean. After a few days, most of them struggled to shore and returned inland. Local fishermen spotted a baby hippo in the rough surf, separated from his mother and the herd. After hours of effort, they finally caught the 600-pound baby and named him Owen, after one of the rescusers.
Wildlife officials took Owen to the safety of Haller Park, a sanctuary for wild animals in the city of Mombassa. But poor Owen was traumatized by this ordeal and needed a mother. To their great surprise, little Owen trotted right up to a giant gray tortoise, named Mzee. Now, tortoises are among the longest-living creatures on Earth, and Mzee, which means "old man" in Swahili, was more than 130 years old.
Mzee hissed, lifted himself up off the ground, and tried to run, but Owen persisted in his friendly and loving ways.
Sometime during that night, something changed. By the next morning they were together, and they have been together ever since.
Hippos are very social animals who like to stay with their mothers for four years.
Owen follows old Mzee around like his mother, wallowing in mud ponds, swimming, and eating.
They even stay close and touching when they sleep.
Eventually Owen will be introduced to Cleo, an adult hippo, so he can be with his own kind. But Mzee and Owen will always be close friends.
After all, they're family!
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