from Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship
by Isabella and Craig Hatkoff with Dr. Paula Kahumbu
On December 26, 2004, a huge tsunami destroyed much of Indonesia. resulting in great loss of life and way of life, and great loss of homes and great loss of animals. One animal that survived was a baby hippo. His rescuers named him Owen. Owen was taken to a sanctuary in Kenya, where he was well cared for and placed in an enclosure. With his physical needs met as well as humanly possible, it was up to Owen himself to take care of the rest.
Mzee, a tortoise, lived in the enclosure. He was not friendly. At 130 years, he was not young either. But he was gentle with Owen, allowing Owen to sleep cuddled up to him. He showed Owen the food he ate. Even though not typical hippo food, Owen didn’t seem to mind. They became great friends and stayed together many years until the keepers deemed it unsafe for Mzee. Through the years Owen topped out at about 8,000 pounds, well over twice Mzee’s size. Mzee had an old shell crack that could be severely damaged if Owen wasn’t careful.
I sometimes feel a lot like Owen: docile, a little unsure of my place in the world, and longing for comfort. I am also a lot like Mzee, though. I like my own space, allowing in only those I choose to let in. My habits are firmly embedded. Many things I do feel like I'm working on auto-pilot. And I love to comfort and nurture smaller, more dependent creatures (think grandchildren here! and kitty cats.)
With Owen and Mzee both at work side by side in my brain, on my good days I'm my own best friend, asking for and receiving exactly what I need..
As best as I can tell, Mzee and Owen are still living in Haller Park, Kenya.