Since Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship was published in December 2005, Owen, the hippo who was orphaned in the tsunami, and Mzee, the giant tortoise that became his unlikely surrogate parent, captured hearts and imaginations. Befitting their unique bond, the incredible pair, Owen and Mzee, have developed their own form of communication. They show us that despite differences, friendship has the power to overcome those differences. This invented language that Owen and Mzee share is explored in the second title about these amazing animals, Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship. It is another facet of their relationship that continues to baffle scientists, who mark their bond as one of the most unusual animal relationships that has ever been documented.
Owen was rescued when the hippo became stranded after the 2004 tsunami. A group of residents and local fishermen in Malindi, Kenya, worked tirelessly to rescue him. Owen was then brought to the Haller Park preserve a few kilometers away in Mombasa, Kenya by Dr. Kahumbu, where the orphan hippo and the elderly tortoise adopted one another. Their story was embraced by the world as the embodiment of the global unity that emerged in a time of tragedy.
At that time, when so many children were affected directly and indirectly by a string of natural disasters, a young girl in New York City, Isabella Hatkoff, saw Peter Greste's photograph of Owen and Mzee in the newspaper. Isabella asked her father, Craig Hatkoff, if they could write a book about them, and the idea for the first Owen & Mzee title was realized. Craig Hatkoff said, "This is a story of hope and resilience that has universal appeal and that works on so many levels."
"Owen and Mzee's story affirms not only the power of friendship, but also the positive effect on the environment of a serious corporate commitment to sustainability," Dr. Kahumbu of Lafarge Eco Systems said. "Helping care for Owen and Mzee has been deeply gratifying for us, and we look forward to reading the book to them at Haller Park."