Charlie the Hippopotamus was an impressionable youngster when he arrived at Zululand Rhino Orphanage in South Africa. After witnessing his family killed by poachers when he was just a few days old, Charlie had no idea what it meant to be a hippo.
This identity crisis was only compounded when Charlie was introduced to Makhosi and some of the other abandoned Rhinoceroses at the rescue preserve.
Charlie Meets Makhosi
When Charlie first arrived at Zululand he didn’t like the water. His enclosure was outfitted with a lovely watering hole for him to splash around in, but Charlie wanted no part of it.
This was a big problem because hippos are supposed to spend the majority of their daylight hours submerged in water. Their skin is thick and tough but hairless and quite sensitive to sunlight. Charlie’s refusal to submerge himself in water was putting him at risk for serious sunburn.
Hoping that a little socialization would bring Charlie out of his shell, the rescuers decided to introduce him to Makhosi, a baby rhino close to his age. The two became fast friends, and soon Charlie was mingling with a whole group of young rhino rescues. While their company helped Charlie grow confident and content, the humans feared too much time with the rhinos had left him even more confused about how to be a hippo.
Moomin Arrives At Zululand
Charlie’s rescuers got word that another baby hippo from a private rescue preserve needed a hippo mate. Moomin, or Moo as she is affectionately known, was brought to Zululand along with her bonded sheep BFF. Moo and the sheep were placed in a small enclosure inside Charlie’s pen so the two hippos could slowly and safely introduce themselves.
Charlie was nervous at first but definitely curious. After a few days, the barrier was removed, and Charlie and Moomin were free to get to know each other. Like Makhosi before her, Moomin became a friend and mentor to Charlie. He still didn’t love the water but was willing to endure it to be close to Moo.
The hippos were still allowed to play with the young rhinos during the day but began spending more and more time together just being hippos.
Makhosi has since been released back into the wild, which is the ideal outcome for all the rescued animals at Zululand. Charlie and Mooman’s caretakers have reduced the time they spend interacting with them to help them prepare for their own release.
Hippos are very territorial, so they will need to be released somewhere that is not currently occupied by others of their species—except, of course, each other. When the time comes for these besties to return to the wild, they will do so together.
Featured Screenshot via YouTube