Turgwe Hippo Trust

  • founder-karen-paolillo
    Meet Karen Paolillo, Founder of the Turgwe Hippo Trust in Zimbabwe
  • elephants
    Each day brings a new quest to protect wildlife here from poachers and illegal hunters.
  • lions
    Lions here live free. If you’ve ever seen a lion in a zoo, you know they would long for a chance to be wild again, to live here. Please help us protect all the animals here.
  • hippos-water
    When a 1992 drought threatened death for hippos and other wildlife, Turgwe Hippo Trust founders Karen and Jean-Roger Paolillo began a massive excavation to create a pool of water.
  • joan-working
    Here you see Jean-Roger working with the Trust’s sand pump in the silted up Turgwe Rive in order to open up the hippo pool.
  • karen-hippos-water
    Karen Paolillo, founder of the Turgwe Hippo Trust, with the dominant bull and some of the Turgwe Hippos.
  • educational-program
    Educational programs for the local school children from Humani at Hippo Haven with Karen Paolillo.
  • kiboko
    Surprise and her calf Kiboko. Surprise, progeny of the drought, was born in November 1993. Kiboko is her 5th calf.
  • karen-baboon
    This completely wild Chacma baboon female juvenile called Vixen like to groom Karen and look for fleas. Karen jokes, “Problem is when you see her actually appear to have found one and eat it!!!”
  • karen-feeding-baboon
    Karen and Sid number 2 dominant male in the Chacma baboon troop, verve’s watching. Karen and Jean-Roger’s devotion to protecting all the wildlife in their vicinity appear to have created some special friendships.
  • jean-working2
    Jean-Roger picking up a haul of wire snares found over a month period, over 100 set to kill the animals.
  • karen-jean-baboon
    Karen and Jean-roger in their bush garden with the Turgwe River below in 2007. Some of the Vervet monkeys with their newborn babies joined them for Christmas day.
  • jean-wire
    Jean showing a set wire snare in the bush, this is big enough to kill a large antelope.
  • jean-best-pal
    Jean and his best pal Biscuit a wild Vervet monkey who like to look inside his shirt for tit bits!
  • hippos-out-of-water
    What a difference each of us can make. None of these animals would be alive today if not for the valiant efforts of Karen and Jean-Roger.

Karen and Jean Paoillo are wardens in a land where a dusty line separates life from death. Their story begins in 1991 when a devastating drought began to claim the wildlife along the Turgwe River. Lowveld hippo populations plummeted to a small herd of just 13 animals and other species of native wildlife nearly disappeared. Determined not to see life extinguished, Karen and Jean appealed to the international community for help and got to work drilling a deep earth pump, excavating a massive pond and trucking in loads of vegetation to feed the animals. For more than a year, they kept the animals alive this way until the rains returned.

But life in Zimbabwe has become even harder for human and animal due to the upside down politics of the notorious President Mugabe who ran farmers off their land a few years back resulting in severe food shortages. This former bread basket of Africa is now among the bleakest countries on the continent and the welfare of animals has tumbled to an all time low.

Rather than retreat, the Paoillos continue their battle to keep the animals alive as poachers set snares up and down the river. The Paoillos have been held hostage, arrested, stricken with malaria, and had their phone lines cut so often that they’ve nearly given up on communication with the outside world. Yet with inconceivable bravery, the two have single handedly saved hundreds of animals from death by snare or shotgun and the hippo population is slowly rebounding with the birth of new calves.

The Harmony Fund asks your help to expand the Turgwe Hippo Trust’s wildlife protection mission. With sufficient funding, they can expand the geographic range of their anti-poaching efforts and protect thousands and thousands of animals from slaughter.