Haller Wildlife Park (Lafarge Ecosystems) is a former disused quarry that has been reborn as a small private game sanctuary. A major initiative has been made to “green” the quarry, and these efforts have literally blossomed into an area of lush beauty.
The onetime quarry is now a thriving game sanctuary, fully stocked with game including Giraffe, Eland, Hippo, Oryx and more.
In December 2004, Kenya’s heavy monsoon rains caused minor flooding in the Sabaki River just North of Malindi on the Kenya coast. The rising waters influenced the habitat of a family of hippos living near the river mouth, and the massive mammals were washed out to sea.
The adult animals all managed to swim back to their home territory, but a small calf- less than a year old- was left behind in the open ocean.
Local fisherman and tourists saw the 600 pound/ 270 kilo male calf wallowing helplessly offshore for several days, and became concerned for his life. He was eventually rescued by Kenya Wildlife Service rangers, who wrapped him in a fishing net and put him in a truck to be taken to Haller Wildlife Park just outside Mombasa.
The hippo, christened Owen (after one of his rescuers) was let loose in an enclosure with two giant tortoises and some bushbucks.
In a remarkable turn of events, he was later adopted by Mzee, one of the giant tortoises.
At first the giant tortoise, who at 120 years of age has the well deserved name of Mzee (old man), hissed aggressively at the frightened hippo, but within a few days the tortoise was eating and sleeping with the hippo and acting like the calf’s mother, even though Mzee is a male tortoise.
Owen, meanwhile, treated the old tortoise like a parent, licking his face and following him everywhere.
This odd couple can be visited at Haller Park, as their remarkable relationship continues. There are many walking trails, making this a pleasant place to spend a morning or afternoon away from the beaches.