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Abe - My Adopted Hippo

Abe head in water
Abe is now the eldest hippo in the Turgwe Hippo families and at an estimate I would say she is in her early to mid forties. I do not know if she will give birth again as the last calf she gave birth to was Grace, back in November 2008. I noticed of late that she is actually beginning to look a bit old, but she still has lots of spirit.

In the dry season all animals lose condition, becoming thin, and not until the new rains do they regain the weight lost in the dry. I was quite surprised how thin Abe became but then, as she is no longer a young hippo this can happen in the dry season. Hopefully with the rains starting again now she will soon look much better.

When hippos reach a certain age, their molars have worn down and it makes it much harder for them to graze grass. In the rains the grass is soft and fresh and so it is a lot easier for an older animal to feed itself, but during the dry the grass is coarse and hard; to chew it takes a lot more effort.

Abe, as always, has Grace and Tsakus with her most of the time in the pool, along with Tembia and the others. She is the matriarch of the family and all the females there are related to her, as her family members have always had a strong bond with each other. Her other daughters, Surprise and Tacha, live next to our home and the Trust’s headquarters, and both have had new calves in 2011.
Abe leaning on her Daughter
Abe’s genes are very prominent amongst the Turgwe Hippos and she has proved to be an excellent mother as well as grandmother in the years that I have studied her.

Abe and two others are the only original hippos left from when I arrived here in 1990. The younger one is Cheeky, who was born in that year. Robin the bull is the other hippo who lives near Hippo Haven. These three are all originally part of the 13 hippos whose lives I saved by giving them food in their natural habitat during the horrendous drought of 1991/92. Robin is younger than Abe but not by many years.

Abe lives with Tembia the younger bull, as she has always lived away from the main group of hippos who stay next to Hippo Haven. In the first few years of my arrival here she spent most of her time with Happy the bull, but after he disappeared she moved to Bob and then to his son Tembia. The pool she lives in now is the largest of any of the pools that she has used in the Turgwe River and I am sure she will remain there now for the rest of her life.

Most of her offspring resemble her, but some more than others. Tsakus is her image and Surprise looks very much like her, but is larger. Abe has always had a nice temperament, which she proved when twice this year I practically walked into her when she was on land. On both occasions she just ignored me and walked into thick reeds or a bushy area.
Abe a big yawn
Poaching in Abe’s area has been particularly bad this year but fortunately we have caught a few of these poachers as well as removed quite a lot of snares. They have managed to sadly kill some animals, but thankfully never a hippo. Hippos here have died naturally, killed by other hippos in the case of young males, but never from poachers to date. A lot of this is due to our daily patrols and the two game scouts patrolling as well the hippos’ grazing areas.

Abe, her family and Tembia have the best pool in the Turgwe River, size wise, and as it is spacious I cannot get as close to them as the hippos near to our home. Even so Abe and all the others have no fear of me as they certainly know who I am and I try to see them at least twice a week to make sure all is well with them.

Abe thanks you as her foster parent for caring about her life and supporting her.