One of the world’s most famous hippos, Jessica, has played the lead in several National Geographic documentaries, appeared on the Discovery Channel, SKY News, and the BBC, and even made it onto the Oprah Winfrey Show. Her favourite snack is homegrown Rooibos, and she eagerly gulps down 20l of the tea every day.
Annually, thousands of tourists flock to the 6ha reserve in Hoedspruit, situated along the Blyde River, to catch a glimpse of Jessica.
Honorary game ranger, Tonie Joubert, and his wife, Shirley Joubert, have raised Jessica since she was a newborn calf. They rescued her during the devastating floods that ravaged parts of Mozambique and South Africa in 2000.
When the time came to wean Jessica, they experimented with various teas, but the only one she took to was Rooibos.
“To this day, she’ll only drink Rooibos and prefers to take it warm with a bit of brown sugar. She has it for breakfast, lunch and supper, and always nudges us for it just before bedtime. It helps her to fall peacefully asleep on the veranda with our five English bull terriers – her very best mates,” Joubert explains.
Weighing a modest 1 400 kg, Jessica maintains her figure by grazing on grass and consuming 5kg of carrots and apples each, along with a loaf or two of bread, each day.
With more than 100 films to her name, she must be one of the most documented animals on the planet. She also starred in Leon Schuster’s blockbuster movie, Mr Bones.
Joubert says tourists enjoy feeding her on top of a raft on the river or by the jetty. “We give them each a warm bottle of Rooibos and well-prepared sweet potatoes cut into slices, which she simply can’t resist,” he says.
“When it comes to the health of your pets, it’s vital to ensure the right pH balance. An alkaline environment allows your pets’ organs, tissues and immune system to thrive. Animals can also benefit from Rooibos’ health-giving properties by simply pouring it over their food or giving it to them to drink,” explains Marthane Swart, Secretariat of the SARC.