Jessica Hippo

Snake warning further down the page.

We weren’t able to stay in the park for the middle section of it as it was fully booked. It wasn’t the school holidays, but pensioners get a 40% discount after the Easter Holiday and apparently there were more people because they weren’t going to Mozambique due to police corruption fining motorists for random reasons.

Anyway, Blyde River Canyon was just outside the park, so we thought we’d go there. We first stayed in Jessica Hippo’s house. We’d seen a programme on the TV about unusual relationships people have with animals and Jessica was one, so we wanted to see for ourselves.

She was washed up on the river bank of an ex ranger’s house during a flood. By her size, she was premature and he discussed with the authorities whether he could keep her as she’d been separated from her mother. They agreed and the rest, as they say, is history.

She’s fairly pampered by the owners, but is always free to go back to the wild, which she does on occasion, but always comes back. It is getting into winter here and she sleeps on the veranda wrapped up in a blanket!

First thing in the morning, she gets a feed of lucerne. After finishing that, she saw a pile of sand left down by some builders and thought it was a good idea to have a snooze until it was show time.

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It’s a hard life being a star!

A gaggle of people arrived to ‘see the show’ and we joined them. We had the brief history and watched an Aussie documentary about the story. Then it was feed time. We took it in turns to feed her carrots (that was this weeks flavour as she changes her mind a bit to keep things varied and interesting).

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When she has a mouthful, then she chews and swallows it

After food comes a large amount of slightly sweet rooibos tea in a bottle, and if you’re a lady, you can kiss her on the nose too. Apparently she got attacked some years ago by some wild hippos and had to have several jabs as part of her treatment. The vet was a man and she’s never forgotten!

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After the food and drink, she pretends to have a snooze

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Look at that cute front paw!

Then she stands next to the pontoon for a back and neck massage

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Not surprisingly it feels like wet leather!

The crowd disappear and we’re left in the calm with the owner and some of the workers. He says the benefit of staying in the house (which we had all to ourselves for a few days) was the bits you see behind the scenes. He wasn’t wrong! There was an addition to the household of another hippo – a male 5 year old weighing 400KG called Ritchie. Jessica is 17 years old (it’s rude to ask her weight) and they are trying to get the two to get along as they can then let Ritchie go into the stream alone and Jessica won’t harm him.

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Here’s Ritchie trying to steal some of the show!

As you may have read, we’ve been suffering from squealing rear brakes on the Landy. Every now and then Gareth whips the brakes out for another clean and lube up (getting quite slick at it now). We still haven’t found the right compound that works, but the Delphi make in Namibia didn’t squeal. So one afternoon it was brake time and we jacked the car up on the bottle jack to get the wheel off. As this was going on, Ritchie decided to come over for a look. It was the most surreal experience trying to work on the car with a 400KG hippo coming up to see what’s happening.

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Just don’t nudge the car off the jack

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Ritchie taking a keen interest in the work mat

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Jessica’s out as well now – time to get the wheel on!

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All he’s after is a little bit of affection and an ear scratch

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Sitting chewing the fat with the owner with a hippo wandering around – as you do

Ritchie seemed to be very fond of Gareth and kept pushing his face at him. Relax and don’t step backwards were the words of advice from the owner – easier said than done. The next time he comes at you with his mouth open, put your hand in and stroke the roof of his mouth. Are you serious? Yes, he was!

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Managed to not get eaten by a hippo – very surreal

Apparently, everyone thinks that hippos are one of the most dangerous animals in the wild and kill more people than crocs etc. The owner has been working as a ranger for over 30 years and doesn’t agree. The only time people get killed is if they get between the hippo and water or their young. One tourist tried to get a better close up shot of a mother and baby and got mauled when she got within about 10m of it – really, some people…

We were chatting to one of the helpers and noticed one of the dogs had got something. We went over and sure enough it was a Mozambique spitting cobra. Pretty deadly thing, but the dog gave it a really good chewing. The helper put it out of it’s misery as it was pretty chewed up. The dog, a bull terrier was shaking like anything from the adrenaline (we hoped). After about 20 mins, she calmed down and we found out later that was her 14th snake. She’d been hospitalised on one occasion, but it obviously hasn’t taken her edge away.

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Shame the snake got it

Overall, it was a very enjoyable and very surreal experience, but well worth it.

2 thoughts on “Jessica Hippo

  1. Fiona Underhill says:

    Omg you guys…can t keep up, you ‘re seeing so many cool things! I love Jessica, what a pampered girl. And can t believe you ve met Stofler…all the animal celebs.


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