Orphaned hippo flown to safety

2013-05-24 17:02

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Lusaka - Proflight Zambia welcomed an unusual passenger on board its aircraft last week in the form of a 120kg hippo calf called Douglina.

UK Zambians reports that the four-month-old orphan was flown by the airline from the Lower Zambezi to her new home in South Luangwa National Park last week after she was rescued by a team from Conservation Lower Zambezi. They had observed the hippo calf for several hours, alone and in obvious distress in the Zambezi River. 

This was when they decided to take action.

The big question was, however, how to get her there safely and with the least amount of stress. After it was decided that a road journey would be too disorientating and potentially dangerous, Proflight stepped in to offer their services. The little hippo was then loaded into a specially made crate and accompanied by one of her dedicated carers and a ZAWA vet, flown to her new home.

Douglina, who was originally thought to be male and named Douglas, has in the mean time settled into her new home. Over the past few days she's gained weight and grown, as she's being fed a 1,5litre mixture of milk and egg yolk from a bottle every three hours. 

The plan is to release Douglina back into the wild when she reaches maturity. In view of this, CLZ and the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) decided that the safest place for the calf to be reared until she can be released is Chipembele Wildlife Trust in South Luangwa, where experienced wildlife rehabilitators have committed to caring for her in their open facility. 

Later this year Douglina's milk consumption will be reduced and in accordance with a natural hippo calf she will be weaned between February and June 2014.

Her new home in South Luangwa is often visited by wild hippos and it is hoped that she will ultimately find a mate and join a wild pod.

When a female hippo nears the time to give birth, she leaves the pod for one to two weeks to give birth to her young and bond with the calf. Without its mother for protection from predators, the calf would almost certainly not have survived the night, explained CLZ. It's not clear what happened to her mother.

Hippo have been identified as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List drawn up by the World Conservation Union, with an estimated global population of between 125 000 and 150 000, a decline of between 7 percent and 20 percent since the IUCN's 1996 study.

Photos from Proflight Zambia Facebook page
Read more on:    flights  |  animals  |  travel international

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