Owen and Mzee

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Owen (left) and Mzee (right)

Owen and Mzee are a hippopotamus and an Aldabra giant tortoise, respectively, that became the subject of media attention after forming an unusual bond of friendship. They live in Haller Park, Bamburi, Kenya.[1]

Owen was separated from his herd as a juvenile following the December 2004 tsunami and was brought to the Haller Park rescue center. Having no other hippos to interact with, Owen immediately attempted to bond with Mzee (Swahili for old man)[2], whose large domed shell and brown color resembled an adult hippo. Mzee was reluctant about Owen at first but grew to like him and got used to Owen around him.

Once it was determined that Owen had grown too large to safely interact with Mzee, a separate enclosure was built for Owen and a new (female) hippo named Cleo, with whom he bonded quickly. With Owen now twice Mzee's size and well on his way to being socialized to other hippos, the famous friends went their separate ways and Mzee was returned to his regular enclosure.

The pair were featured in Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship, a 2006 book by Isabella and Craig Hatkoff, as well as the 2007 sequel Owen and Mzee: The Language of Friendship. Jeanette Winter also created a picture book about Owen titled "Mama: A True Story".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Odd couple make friends in Kenya, BBC, 2005-01-01, retrieved 2008-06-10
  2. ^ "Elder - Swahili translation - bab.la English-Swahili dictionary".

External links[edit]