Adorable new resident at rehabilitation centre

NELSPRUIT – Emma has the staff of Care for Wild Africa wrapped around her proverbial finger. This baby hippo was rescued from a concrete water chamber in KaNyamazane by the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) on December 19 and is now being cared for at the wildlife rehabilitation centre.

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According to Mr Chris Hobkirk of the MTPA, he was contacted by the department of waterworks after one of their workers came across the trapped hippo. It is suspected that she was swept away by a strong current in the Crocodile River. When the worker came to flush the chamber, he opened the manhole and noticed the small hippo standing on a little metal grid in the water.

Hopkirk arrived on the scene and climbed down the built-in ladder. “When they’re that small they’re not aggressive,” says Hobkirk. “They just need comfort. I talked to her for about five or six minutes and touched her back until she trusted me.” He says to comfort her, he stuck his thumb in her mouth “like a baby’s dummy” and she started sucking on it.

When the MTPA team arrived, a sail bag with ropes was lowered down into the chamber to hoist Emma out. She was transported to Nelspruit on the back of a bakkie, falling asleep with Hopkirk’s thumb still in her mouth.

The team contacted Care for Wild Africa and asked whether they would be able to take care of her.

Ms Petronel Nieuwoudt immediately agreed and went to fetch her.

Nieuwoudt says the little hippo stole the hearts of everyone at the centre. Emma currently drinks five litres of full cream milk with egg yolk and extra cream per day. This substitute is a lot like hippo milk, which resembles cow milk but contains more cream. She has to consume between 10 and 12 per cent of her body weight every 24 hours. “Routine and hygiene is of the essence. And milk has to be fed to her at body temperature,” she says. “The whole team makes sure that Emma gets all she needs.”

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As hippos are very social animals and around their mothers the whole time, Niewoudt needs to sleep with Emma every night. Her favourite time of day is when she gets to swim and play in the dam. The staff enjoys it almost as much as she does. Another fun time is when Emma needs to be weighed, because she never stands still. She is regularly weighed to keep track of whether she is picking up weight and in a good condition. She currently only has two small teeth and weighs

42 kilograms. Nieuwoudt foresees a great future for Emma, because there are many dams on the farm. The centre forms part of a conservancy where there is more than enough food and other game. Care for Wild Africa says they would appreciate donations of full cream milk, eggs and cream. The support will be greatly appreciated. “This way we can ensure that healthy animals are returned to nature,” Nieuwoudt concludes.

Retha Nel

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