Werribee Open Range Zoo


Werribee Open Range Zoo offers the chance to be awed by these massive creatures, who inspire a healthy respect in everyone who meets one. 

While their name means ‘river horse’ their closest relatives are whales and dolphins.

Concerns about the future of this species have grown over the last few years and hippopotamus are now classed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (on the IUCN red list). Populations have declined by up to 20% in some areas of sub-Saharan Africa, which is their home. The risks include loss of habitat (they spend their days in fresh water pools) and hunting for their flesh and teeth (ivory).

Your visit helps to fight species extinction. Visiting the hippos at Werribee is an opportunity not only to marvel at these amazing animals, but also to learn about the threats to many African species, what the international community is doing to try to conserve this species, and how Zoos Victoria is contributing to the fight. 

Hippopotamuses are nocturnal feeders, emerging from their pools at dusk and feeding in the cool, moist night air. These large herbivores follow the same paths each night and graze by cutting grasses with their broad lips. At dawn, they return to the water, where they spend most of the day. If the weather is suitable, hippopotamuses will also bask in the sun on land or in mud wallows. Males weigh up to 3 tonnes and females up to 1.4 tonnes.

Hippopotamuses are aggressive, unpredictable and easily enraged. Females are social, living in groups and helping look after each other’s calves. Males are fiercely territorial and are more innately aggressive than other species. They mark their territory by flicking their tails while defecating, spreading their scent as far as possible. Males fight over females during breeding season, and over water space constantly. 

Hippopotamuses, especially the males, have large ivory tusks jutting upwards from their lower jaw. These are fighting teeth, while teeth for grinding food are located at the back of the jaws.

Meet the animals


Born 1990

Primrose is the largest of the three females in the main pond, and mother to Tulip and Lotus. She is very polite and enjoys chin rubs from her keepers.


Born 1990

Brindabella lives in the middle pond, likes to have things her own way and at feed times will often bang on her gate to let the keepers know she wants to be let in. 


Born 2003

Tulip is the second largest of the three females in the main pond. She is very curious about anything going on in the area, likes to interact with the keepers, and is generally very playful. She is going through the ‘terrible teen’ stage and she is often seen play-sparring with her younger sister Lotus. 


Born 2008

Lotus has recently developed quite a bit of confidence and now enjoys interacting with the keepers and she also spends a lot of time play-sparring with older sister Tulip. 


Born 2013

Pansy is the youngest calf at Werribee Open Range Zoo. Mum Brindabella is very patient with the calf, who nuzzles in under mum’s chin during feeding time and loves to splash around in the water.

Hippo Pansy Birthday

Happy Birthday Pansy

Werribee Open Range Zoo has celebrated the first birthday of hippo calf  Pansy.

To mark the milestone on Tuesday 18 November, Pansy and mum Brindabella enjoyed a special watermelon cake created by the Zoo’s volunteers along with some vegetable ice blocks.

18 November 2014
Lady Potter Meets Pansy

Lady Potter Names Baby Hippo

Lady Potter AC, Trustee of the Ian Potter Foundation has named Werribee Open Range Zoo’s new baby hippo.

Lady Potter announced the name on a special visit to Werribee Open Range Zoo yesterday where she spent some time with the cheeky, two month-old calf and mum Brindabella.

23 January 2014
Slumber Safari - couple

Slumber Safari

Enjoy an overnight experience at the Zoo in our luxury safari camp. Your stay includes amazing close-up animal encounters, drinks and dips at sunset, a sumptuous dinner, unique night-time activities and breakfast alongside the meerkats.  

Open Vehicle Adventure video

Off Road Safari

Get even closer to our magnificent African wildlife on an off road safari. You will be completely immersed in the sights, smells and sounds of the savannah as you travel across the Zoo's open plains.

Did you know?
  • The hippopotamus’ closest living relatives are whales and dolphins
  • Hippopotamus are virtually hairless and have a thin top layer of skin, so moisture loss in dry air is greater than for other animals. Staying in water prevents dehydration
  • They can run at speeds of 30km per hour, but only for very short bursts
  • Hippopotamuses ooze a pinkish fluid when they are in the sun which acts as a sunscreen