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Haller Park, Unlikely Cast of Characters in Bamburi, Kenyan Preserve
Haller Park, named after Dr. Rene Haller, is a mammouth project that he designed to reclaim the barren limestone strip mines for Bamburi Cement Factory. Haller worked for more than ten years for the company, growing food for the factory employees. He was then hired to implement a plan he envisioned to take back the miles of land that had been laid waste by mining limestone from old coral beds. In 1970 he began with planting three thousand trees in the hard coral. Roads and paths were developed for workers to care for the new seedlings. This initial investment has developed into a huge animal and nature preserve with an education center, walking and biking trails and a cast of animal characters that have garnered world attention.
Sally and Potty
Baby Hippo Adopted by Ancient Tortoise
Sally and Potty were the first two hippos to be taken in to the nature preserve. But it was Owen who took the world by storm. Owen was stranded at a beach in Malindi on the coast of Kenya after the tsunami of 2004. A rescue effort was mounted and he was brought to Haller Park. Once there, he was adopted by Mzee, which means old one in KiSwahili. Mzee is an Aldabra Tortoise and is over one hundred and thirty years old. Owen and Mzee lived together for two years before he was introduced to a hippo named Cleopatra. The relationship between Owen and Mzee was truely charming.
Maribou Stork at Haller Park
Crocodiles at Haller Park
Meet some of the Rest of the Cast
Aquaculture was started at the park in 1980 with a small commercial fish farm. The area is a great place to observe water and scavenger birds that are out to make a quick meal of an unaware fish. The Marabou Stork is a scavenger bird that frequents the area. It looks a bit like a scruffy undertaker.
South African Crested Porcupine
This porcupine is nocturnal. He likes to hide in the rocks, burrows and crevices in the day and be active and eat at night. He has long white sensitive hairs, called guard hairs that allow him to feel the location of an intruder. When angry he stomps his back feet, spikes up his quills and backs up or steps sideways to spike the intruder. Sometimes lucky visitors, like us, do get to see this large porcupine.
Crocodiles are kept at Haller Park for viewing and for production, as some of the skin and meat are sold. When crocodiles lay eggs, the eggs are removed from the nest and incubated to improve the rate of survival. Crocodiles provide phosporus for plants since they are able to digest bone and deposit the minerals back into the ecosystem. The crocodile feeding time is a highlight for many visitors. Dead chicken carcasses or other hunks of meat are placed on a string and pully system. The crocs jump and grab them, to the delight of bystanders.
Cape Buffalo, eland, oryx, antelope, and waterbuck are some of the other animals which can be found at the park. There is a butterfly pavilion and a giraffe feeding center where the giraffes can be hand fed. It is quite an experience to have a long, rough giraffe tongue on your hand. Ancient tortoises roam the property. There is a playground for the children, lush vegetation throughout the park a restaurant and a snack bar by the lake just in case you are thirsty .
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