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Kenya’s very own Owen and Mzee, the tortoise who adopted an abandoned hippo calf, have become known around the globe. Their unique freindship is now a best-selling children’s book. They are also subjects of a new documentary and may possibly be the inspiration for a Hollywood movie.

‘Owen and Mzee' chronicles the dramatic rescue and ensuing friendship between a baby hippo named Owen and the 130-year-old giant tortoise named Mzee. When Owen became stranded after the December 2004 Tsunami that affected part of the Kenya Coast, a group of residents and local fishermen in Malindi, a few kilometers from Mombasa worked tirelessly to rescue him. Owen, who was a year old at the time, was then brought to the Haller Park preserve by Dr. Kahumbu, where he was adopted by an elderly Aldabran tortoise. Photos were e-mailed from friend to friend, quickly making Owen and Mzee worldwide celebrities. They have formed a bond and are inseparable ever since – they swim, eat and play together, even developing a special way of communicating that has baffled scientists and animal experts alike.

This story inspired an inquisitive six-year-old American girl, Isabella Hatkoff who wrote to Paula Kahumbu, with a long list of questions. Her father, Craig Hatkoff, became involved in the conversation, and the three of them decided to write an e-book, published initially only on the internet. Scholastic Books, the worlds biggest children’s book publisher picked up on this unique story and developed an e-book into a hard cover photo book.
The children’s book “Owen & Mzee; the true story of a Remarkable Friendship” officially became a best-seller, topping both the New York Times best seller’s list as well as Amazon, competing on the same level with the Harry Potter series of books published in the US. Click here to buy your copy.

Owen & Mzee are not just making waves for themselves. Fans have been tracking their adventures on the Lafarge Eco Systems’ website . The caretaker, Stephen Tuei, has been writing a regular diary detailing daily observations made about their unusual behavior. This web diary has drawn over a million visitors, who are also learning about Owen and Mzee’s home in Bamburi’s rehabilitated limestone quarry, Haller Park. Many that visit our website are so touched by the amazing photographs and stories relayed daily that they write back with words of encouragement and support for our taking care of Mzee and Owen, as well as for the ongoing conservation efforts that our company is involved in. Visitors to the website openly interact with our staff and with each other, represented from all walks of life, their views united and contact made by sharing in Owen and Mzee’s remarkable story.
Haller Park is a rehabilitated quarry with a thriving ecosystem and a place where visitors from around the world can come see Owen and Mzee in addition to other wildlife such as giraffes, hippos, antelopes and buffaloes to name a few of its many attractions of Nature.

The hippo and tortoise have become powerful symbols of strength and resilience, not just for the humans who empathize with their remarkable tale, but for those who draw hope from Haller Park’s own incredible transformation from bare rock to natural wonder.

Future plans for Owen and Mzee are the subject of a lot of interest currently. Owen is already becoming dangerously big and in Mzee’s best interests, Haller Park staff are planning to move Owen to a new enclosure and introduce him to another hippo Cleo, who has been on her own since her old partner Johnnie died over a decade ago. Mzee on the other hand will probably return to the company of his own kind, a female tortoise called Toto.

Lafarge Eco Systems is also currently working on a short promotional documentary, which together with the book, will be officially launched at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York this April. Visitors can keep track of the progress, look at amazing photographs and learn of any new developments on our website.
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