Tortoise Has Remarkable Friendship with Orphaned Hippo

Here’s an unlikely animal friendship story that is simply timeless. In December 2004, a frightened baby hippo became separated from his family during a devastating tsunami off the Kenyan coast.

Mzee and Owen's friendship continues to inspire people around the world

Haller Foundation

The baby hippo was named Owen after one of his rescuers. He was taken to Haller Park preserve in Mombasa, Kenya, where he met a tortoise named Mzee.

Owen follows Mzee around

Owen was scared and alone when he first arrived at the preserve and bonded with Mzee and began to follow him around. The 130-year-old tortoise accepted Owen and took on the role of surrogate parent.

Owen and Mzee began to do everything together. They swam, slept and ate together. Mzee took on the role of surrogate parent and best friend.

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 told AFP. Paula explained that hippos are by nature social animals and like to stay with their mothers for around 4 years.

Mzee and Owen swimming together

The pair remained together for several years. Eventually Mzee was moved to another enclosure when Owen grew up. Owen wasn’t alone though. A female hippo named Cleo joined him as a companion.

Owen and Mzee’s friendship inspired many people around the world.


Children’s books have been written about the pair to help children who experience loss.

Below is a video of the pair by UNICEF. Their legacy lives on at their home in Haller Park in Mombasa, Kenya.

They also have their very own website dedicated to keeping their story alive.

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