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Last Updated: Friday March 17 2006 16:56 GMT

Hippo and tortoise learn own chat

Owen the hippo and the tortoise
A baby hippo and a giant tortoise have developed their own way of talking to one another, claim their keepers.

The two creatures bonded after little Owen was rescued from the sea by wildlife rangers, after the Asian tsunami hit Kenya.

One year on, Owen and tortoise Mzee's keepers say they've developed their own special snuffling language.

Experts at Mombassa wildlife sanctuary say it's the first time they've seen a mammal and a reptile chatting.

The animals have been living happily together for a year, but it took a while before keepers realised they had developed a way of communicating.

Dr Paula Kahumbu said: "We discovered that somebody was making a sound in the pen, we'd never heard it before, not even from other hippos.

"And then we realised it was coming from both Owen and Mzee... It's just very unusual."


Owen and Mzee in their pen
Owen and Mzee chat in their pen
Mzee, who is 126 years old, befriended Owen when he arrived at the wildlife centre after the tsunami on Boxing Day 2004.

The hippo became separated from his mother when the creek where he lived was swamped by the wave which travelled as far as the Kenyan coast.

Rangers rescued the calf after spotting him alone in the water.

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