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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gentle Jessica Hippo

article published in Good Gabble Newzine Issue 11 December 2010
changes have been made to typsetting to accomodate the blog along with omission of photo's

A story of love, friendship and human compassion

  On 11th March 2000 devastating floods hit Mozambique and South Africa. On this day Tonie and Shirley Joubert went for a walk. As they walked along the river they heard a crunching sound and Shirley's eyes caught a glimpse of movement. As they stood on the river bank and gazed in the direction of the sound they saw a baby hippo calf.

   Tonie and Shirley approached the calf to assess the situation. Tired and weak the calf had no energy. Picking her up Tonie observed that she was only a few hours old, with the umbilical cord still attached. Knowing that the calf needed milk urgently, and with Tonie's experience as a game ranger, a formula similar to colestrum was created. This consisted of egg yolk, cream and full cream cow's milk.

   At 16 kg's and 30 cm tall at the shoulder, it certainly was the smallest hippo Tonie and Shirley had seen. It was decided that they would call her Jessica. Jessica soon discovered what the milk formula was all about and took to it greedily, consuming 10% of her body mass (1.6 litres) over a 24 hour period. She was soon following Tonie and Shirley around the house, waking them when she was hungry, and had no problems making friends with the dogs.

 Hippo's are social animals that like to stay close to their animals for four years.

 “Jessica's chances of survival in the wild were very slim, and we realized that we were now her parents. It was, therefore far more merciful to finish the affair that we started, than to just let it be, much to our pleasure and relief.” writes Shirley on Jessica's internet site

  As Jessica grew she became very much part of the family, bonding terrifically with the dogs, creating an abundance of happiness and receiving warmth and affection from all.

 “Jessica is so gentle; she is a tremendous boost for our physical and mental wellbeing. She is genuinely kind. Although she has phenomenal strength in her jaw, she has never shown any signs of aggression. Jessica is the most wonderful precious thing, she is so unique and special, and needs to be appreciated.” writes Shirley.

   As Jessica has grown and matured she has ventured out into the wild to live with the other hippo's but comes homes daily for her meal treats. Should Tonie and Shirley go away for the weekend Jessica shows signs of hating being left alone. Upon returning Tonie and Shirley observe that Jessica is terribly hungry and has obviously not eaten since the last time they saw her. After they give her a meal, and lots of love, she would fall sound asleep. She is always overjoyed to see them.

    Today Jessica is 10 years old. She still loves to interact with humans. She is a unique hippo as it is well known that hippo's are one of the most dangerous creatures in Africa, this is not the case with Jessica. She is the gentle giant of the hippo's, displaying charateristics that make all who interact with her wonder about the approach humans have toward wild animals.

  Over the years Jessica has become somewhat of a phenomenon. In 2005 Animal Planet filmed a documentary on Jessica and she has also appeared on Sky News and BBC News. She has appeared in documentaries made by National Geographic and Discovery Channel, appeared five times on South Korea TV and twice on Japanese TV. There has been live radio interviews in both Sydney and Melbourne.

  I first encountered the story of Jessica when a video clip was sent to me via email. I could not believe what I saw – An animal the size of Jessica being so gentle and loving, helping herself through the front door of the house into the kitchen for a meal and then sleeping comfortably with her canine companions. It was this clip that had me making contact with Tonie and Shirley who have been more than welcoming, giving further insight into the life of their amazing friend.

The video clip has been posted on our website It is sure to lift your day.

You can learn more about Jessica at
 Join Jessica on

article: Jennifer Deaves

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