Happy Hippo Rejoins the Wild After Humans Teach Him to Swim

A happy hippo returns to the wild in Zambia’s South Luangwa River after humans at a wildlife center taught him how to swim.

Douglas the hippo was only two weeks old when he was found abandoned in the Zambian wilderness in May 2013. The poor orphaned hippo was close to death before experts at the Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust (CWET) rescued him. Founders Anna and Steve Tolan have been raising orphaned animals and reintroducing them to the wild for more than 16 years, but this was their first hippo.

Raising Douglas wasn’t going to be easy, but the Tolan’s were up for the challenge. They constructed a special pool and hired extra people to help care for the baby hippo. Douglas was bottle-fed and given swimming lessons. Even the Tolan’s two terriers, Molly and Coco, got into the act, teaching Douglas how to socialize.

Everyone grew to love Douglas, including thousands of viewers of “Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans,” a British TV documentary series. After Douglas had appeared on the show, supporters raised more than $16,000 towards his rehabilitation.

All that time, effort and funding has paid off. Douglas recently joined a pod of wild hippo in the South Luangwa River, not far from where he grew up. It will take him a while to be fully accepted into the group, but he’s doing well, said Steve Tolan.

The Tolans and CWET received kudos from Will Travers, president of the Born Free Foundation, who said they worked “tirelessly to raise Douglas and give him the chance of a life back in wild.” Hip hip hooray for this hippo!

Photo: Dreamin Dragon-Fly