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Karen Paolillo Describes the Rescue of Two Trapped Leopard Cubs at Turgwe Hippo Trust

A Hippo Love StoryFor the last two decades Karen Paolillo and her husband, Jean-Roger, have been living amongst the wild hippos they have fought to save at the Turgwe Hippo Trust. Paolillo has written about their journey to save these animals in A Hippo Love Story, but she recently shared a story with Care2 about the rescue of a different kind of animal at Turgwe: two leopard cubs that were trapped in their water tank.

Paolillo explains that both she and her husband had malaria at the time and when the man who came to start the water pump called them to say there was a leopard in the tank, only Jean-Roger was strong enough to go. At the tank he realised there was a mother leopard nearby in the bushes and two cubs in the large brick tank. Using the camera that she had insisted he take with him, he managed to take some great photos of the cubs as he helped them out of the tank using a tree they cut down.

Read Paolillo’s story, including how she forgot to put film in the camera before handing it to him …

The downside of living in Africa is not the supposed dangers of animals being red in tooth and claws but instead the little guy that can really bring you down. In this case the malaria mosquito. Normally both Jean-Roger and I get malaria at the same time, the mosquito having made sure it bites both of us! Once, Jean-Roger was nearly recovered but not up to heavy physical work, and I was still in that twilight zone, having to frequently return to a prone position. DaiDai, an African man, had come to start the pump installed in the Turgwe River. This pump used to pump water up a four hundred foot rocky hill into a large brick tank. Water then fed by gravity through another pipe line into man-made pans built for the wild animals.

That morning DaiDai told Jean: “Mr. Paolillo, there is a leopard in the tank and it’s making too much noise!” Well, to say Jean was flummoxed was an understatement, as at that moment DaiDai was pumping. So the eight feet deep tank was filling up and would drown the leopard. He told him to immediately turn it off.

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