Sunbathe With Hippos In Victoria

11 March 2015

Zoos Victoria has recently opened what is believed to be Australia’s first “hippo beach” – a sandy area where families can bask in the sun while gazing at wallowing hippos – at the Werribee Open Range Zoo, west of Melbourne.

Zoos Victoria stressed that hippos are safely separated from patrons, the large water-dwelling mammals enjoying their own beach next to their wallowing ponds.

Hippo Beach Werribee Open Range Zoo The new Hippo Beach at Werribee Open Range Zoo, just outside Melbourne. Photograph: Greg Henderson

Yvette Pauligk, the hippo keeper at the zoo, said a primary concern was that the arrival of the beach didn’t cause distress to the animals.

“They are shy, anxious animals and any change makes them a little wary, so they’ve been a bit intimidated by all the building noise,” she said. “But they’ve got used to it and I can say as the hippo representative at meetings on this, I was happy with the plans.”

Hippo Beach Werribee Open Range Zoo hippopotamuses Werribee Open Range Zoo’s hippopotamuses wallow in their own enclosure. Photograph: Greg Henderson

The zoo has five hippos, including a young calf. The largest of the hippos weighs 1,800 kilograms, so staff do not enter the enclosure for fear of being inadvertently crushed or injured by the hippos’ giant canine teeth, which they use to play with each other.

It’s hoped the beach will prove a drawcard for tourists to learn fascinating hippo facts, such as their secretion of “pink sweat”, which contains antibacterial and UV protective properties.

Hippo Beach Werribee Open Range Zoo hippopotamus Hippopotamus keeper Yvette Pauligk said the new attraction would help raise awareness of the plight of hippos in the wild. Photograph: Greg Henderson

Hippos aren't the only animals that need nurturing. Protecting Orangutans In Borneo

Take a turn in the cage at this zoo. Tables Turned: Chile Zoo Cages Visitors In New Lion Experience


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Habitat Loss Has Been Devastating For Hippos

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Pauligk said it would also help raise awareness of the plight of hippos in the wild, as well as help restore their reputation.

“They’ve got a bad name for themselves because everyone has heard the stat that they kill more people than any other animal in Africa,” she said. “If you look at the raw stats it may be true but they share the same areas as humans, they live alongside them. So you can’t compare seeing a hippo 20 times a day to seeing a lion once a month.

Hippo Beach Werribee Open Range Zoo Pansy hippopotamus calf Pansy the hippopotamus calf. Photograph: Greg Henderson

“Hippos are not a priority species for conservation. People don’t realise that habitat loss is massive for hippos, that they get poached for the ivory in their teeth and also for bush meat.

“The numbers are dropping fast and I hope we can make people a bit more aware of that.”

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

This article was written by Oliver Milman from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Oliver Milman

Oliver Milman is a reporter at Guardian Australia, focused on environmental issues. He is based in Melbourne. You can follow him on Twitter at @olliemilman.