Douglas was an orphan hippopotamus who lived at Chipembele Wildlife Education Trust in Zambia, in southern Africa. This wonderful sanctuary and charitable organisation is located on the banks of the Luangwa River, adjacent to South Luangwa National Park, near Mfuwe in the east of the country. Here the Trust runs a small wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre for injured and orphaned animals, but is also devoted to conservation education amongst local school children, and to community projects and anti-poaching work.
In February 2013 Douglas was found abandoned by an organisation called Conservation Lower Zambezi (CLZ). We don’t know what happened to his mother, but Douglas was far too small to survive on his own and, sickly and distressed, was close to death. CLZ was determined to save his life and literally worked round the clock to care for him. It was very difficult but at last, he took the bottle and began drinking milk.
In May 2013 it was realised that Douglas needed a good long term home, and so he was brought to Chipembele, who offered to care for and raise the baby. This was no mean feat, Chipembele is a massive 950km (590 miles) from CLZ so to transport him was a huge undertaking, only made possible by the generosity of Proflight Zambia, who flew the precious cargo free of charge, accompanied by a vet. He was then put in a crate and driven on the back of a truck (see pic) for a 1½ hour road journey, before at last arriving ‘home’ at Chipembele, safe and sound.
Steve Tolan, who co-established Chipembele describes the effort: “We constructed a pool and brought in dedicated carers to look after Douglas who initially was bottle fed and looked to his human carers for reassurance and companionship and even swimming lessons, but we urgently needed financial support. Luckily Douglas’ story touched many people and in particular we want to thank the supporters of Born Free Foundation who adopted Douglas and have, over the past 12 months provided over £10,000, helping make Douglas’ rehabilitation and release a reality.
“Douglas has now been fending for himself since he was weaned in January 2014 and is surviving and thriving. He has made his first few attempts to join the wild pod in the Luangwa River. It will probably be a long, slow process until he is fully accepted into the pod but he is on his way.”