Meeting Jessica The Tame Hippo
Visitors can meet Jessica at the following times –
Monday to Saturday -
Between 10am &12noon and between 3pm & 5pm
Between 10am &12noon
If you’re lucky enough to visit Hoedspruit in South Africa, make sure you take a trip to meet Jessica. She’s an 11 year old tame Hippo who lives indoors and is friendly to tourists.
Hippos are said to be one of the most dangerous animals. They have been known to kill people who invade their habitat so being able to get up close and personal with Jessica shouldn’t be taken for granted.
She is tame because she was brought up by the Joubert family, who adopted her when they found her on the banks of the Blyde River after a flood had subsided. She was born prematurely and her umbilical cord was still attached when the flood took her away from her parents. Tonie Joubert, who is a former game warden, recognised her condition and nursed her back to health.
Now she is a healthy 1-ton Hippo who is still 6 years from full maturity. She can be bred and it’s Tonie and his wife Shirley hope that their ‘daughter’ Jessica will become a mum some day. That should be possible without artificial aid because she regularly visits wild Hippos and yet at the end of each day she returns to the safety of her adopted family.
Visitors are first shown a video which explains the extraordinary circumstances that lead Jessica to her current home and then they get to meet the little lady in person. Although she’s tame, she is still a 1-ton Hippo, so caution is advised and throughout the meeting, visitors are supervised by one of Jess’s handlers.
The cost of a visit isn’t very expensive and every rand that is made from this goes back into her welfare. She eats £40 of food a day and regularly breaks one of her sleeping mattresses. In fact her weight can lead to a lot of damage for the Joubert family. They have reinforced their kitchen counter because she likes to come and rest herself against it and countless sofas have had to be destroyed after she’s decided to have a seat.
You don’t get to be 1-ton without liking food, so it’s shouldn’t be a surprise that each visit means another feed time for Jess. Fruit and vegetables are thrown into her mouth and, once she’s finished eating, guests get to feed her two litres of tea through the teat of a plastic bottle.
She’s really a big baby and is treated as such by the Jouberts because they have no children of their own.
An Idiot Abroad Meets Jessica
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