Jessica, the World-Famous Pet Hippopotamus
She’s a very special creature. A very special hippo, that is.
Jessica is a 10-year-old female hippopotamus who lives near Hoedspruit in South Africa. What makes her so special and unique is the fact that she’s a wild animal yet interacts with humans in a rather different way than nature has intended.
Jessica doesn’t know she is Africa’s most dangerous animal. It’s well known that hippos are some of the most dangerous and fearsome creatures in Africa. There are scores of accounts of hippos attacking and killing people who invade their space or disrupt their normal everyday routines.
Not Jessica. She’s a different sort of bird altogether.
Separated from her mother at and rescued as an orphan from a rising flood, Jessica was adopted by game warden Tonie Joubert 12 years ago. He noticed something uniquely different about her.
She loves interaction with humans. She loves her treats. She opens doors and likes to nap with people. She loves her bull terrier companions, her massages, and her special pink blankie.
In the wild, a lone premature calf won’t survive for long, but Tonie and his wife Shirley nursed Jessica to health with baby formula after she was found.
Jessica is the world’s most famous hippo and perhaps the only one who seems to have forgotten how aggressive and scary she really is supposed to be. The Jouberts have never seen her display the slightest amount of aggression.
Jessica the Hippo has made herself at home as a member of this South African family. Since she already broke a couch and a bed, she now is restricted to the kitchen only. She weighs nearly 2,200 pounds and sleeps on their veranda in the Limpopo province of South Africa.
Joubert has put more than 1,000 hippos to death in his lifetime, but Jessica found a special place in his heart.
So special, in fact, that he spends nearly $2,000 a month to keep her alive. He buys corn and sweet potato for her to eat – hippos are vegetarians – and replaces her mattress every two weeks. She also has a tea fetish and greedily slurps away at decaffeinated rooibos tea fed to her from a 2 liter coke bottle.
Although she regularly frolics with wild hippos in the Blyde river and is free to do as she likes, Jessica returns to the Joubert’s home every night. But now that she is beginning to reach a weight that primes her for bearing her own calf, it’s anybody’s guess what will happen next.
In fact, Jessica shows some mind-boggling characteristics that questions our attitude towards wild animals. When considering the natural behavior of the species, it is hard to determine whether Jessica considers herself as human– or us humans as fellow hippos.
Make room for baby. Due to her behavior, Jessica has become somewhat of a lovable worldwide phenomenon.
Above is Part I of Jessica’s story. Part II is seen below; and for you hippo lovers out there, Part III can be found here.
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