HomeStandard PeopleJessica: A hippo with a human family

Jessica: A hippo with a human family

Not that I especially want to, when supposedly on a break! However, those darned deadlines don’t wait!

Kruger National Park is a mind-blowing experience for those of us who grew up national-parking in Zim, under canvas or in relatively rudimentary accommodation with paraffin lamps and a wood fire for cooking. Skukuza Camp from whence I write is a veritable small town in itself, replete with two à la carte restaurants, a small shopping complex, supermarket, take away joint and more! The park itself however is as wild as only wild Africa can be, and with only one day’s drive through it, we’ve seen most of the mammal species found here, aplenty — including, black and white rhino! The scenery’s spectacular, too.

But more of this in weeks to come. First, let me share with you, Jessica the Hippo! Again those wonders of modern technology played their part. Our sat-nav tells us of exciting things en route! Imagine my surprise, driving somewhere outside Blyde River Canyon, to see it pronounce “Jessica the Hippo” as a “place of interest”. Immediately my memory was jogged. I’d watched a delightful documentary by the same name. Jumping on the web — in the car, via iPad — yes, technogeeks, we are — we confirmed this hippo to be one and the same — and resolved that we must meet her, and eyeball to eyeball!

This is a lovely, touching tale of the potential for man’s relationships with wild animals, and has stirred much interest worldwide. A few hours old, Jessica, her umbilical cord still attached, washed up on the riverbank at a farm near Hoedspruit during a massive flood. The farming couple found her, fell in love with the poor little creature, and adopted her there and then. She was otherwise sure to perish, her mother never to be found.

Today, Jessica’s an engaging teenager with a Facebook page and a big heart! Either, she sees humans as hippos or thinks she’s a human herself, but she’s never hurt a person, nor indeed the other family pets!

She mows the lawn most obligingly and well, and delights the thousands of people who come to meet her each year — sometimes as many as 100 a day! She has been studied, filmed, You-Tubed, and has featured on various newscasts and in several documentaries globally — evidently her story enchants all who hear it!

So we took a trip to meet her in person — the fees paid for visits all help feed and care for her on the farm — and delightful she was indeed! And all thanks to our Garmin! After the excitement of meeting our little group, Jessica decided to take a nap on her mattress on the porch.

The family take great care when visitors come, to ensure their safety, and they visit with Jessica behind a fenced-off area — for even though she loves people, she is a wild animal and thus, it is unknown whether she might one day become less favourably inclined to humans!

She’s now at an age where she’s ready to mate, so it remains to be seen whether, once she gives birth, she will choose to go back to the wild for good, or whether she’ll remain with her adoptive human clan.

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