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Werribee Open Range Zoo

Hippopotamus

Werribee Open Range Zoo provides a rare opportunity to get up close to these intriguing animals. You can sit and watch the hippos along the Pula Walking trail as well as seeing them while out on Safari.

While the name hippopotamus means ‘river horse’, their closest relatives are actually 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). According to the IUCN, the most recent population estimates suggest a 7-20% decline in hippo populations over the past decade. Threats to hippos include habitat loss, and poaching for meat and their ivory teeth.

Preferred hippo habitat includes slow-moving, fresh water with flat grassy areas nearby for feeding. Unfortunately, this is also the type of habitat that humans seek out and this leads to human-animal conflict – especially as fresh water bodies in Africa can be scarce.

Hippos spend most of their time in the water, venturing out at dusk to feed in the cool of the evening. These giant herbivores spend the night grazing on grass before returning to the water at dawn. If the weather is suitable, they will bask in the sun either on land or in mud wallows.

While they are herbivores, hippos are very territorial and protective of their families and can be very aggressive. A hippo will head for the water if they feel threatened. Unfortunately, as the valuable resource of water within their habitat is often shared with people, this commonly results in conflict. 

Adult hippos have between 36–40 teeth, with the canine teeth (tusks) measuring up to 50cm in males especially. These large ivory tusks protrude outside and upwards from their lower jaw. Teeth for grinding food are located at the back of the jaw; their enormous tusks are used purely for fighting and defending themselves. It is these large ivory teeth that are bringing hippos under threat in the wild.

By the age of two major predator threats from carnivores decrease, replaced by the increasing threat of humans targeting hippos for the illegal ivory and bush meat trades.

Hippos are very important ambassadors at the Zoo, affording visitors the opportunity to connect with these awesome animals, while learning more about their increasingly vulnerable status in wild and what they can do to help them.

Primrose

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.

Brindabella

Born 1990

Brindabella is a terrific mum to young Pansy. She 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. 

Tulip

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. 

Lotus

Born 2008

Lotus is now as tall as her mum, but she still has some growing to do over the next few years. She’s quite cheeky and likes to stir up older sister Tulip.

Pansy

Born 2013

Pansy is the youngest hippo at Werribee Open Range Zoo, born to mother Brindabella. Some of her favourite foods include treats such as crispy lettuce, watermelon, and other juicy summer fruits. Pansy also loves to porpoise and splash around in the water!

Hippo Pansy Third Birthday 2016 web620

Hip, Hip Hooray, Hippo Pansy is Three

This week at Werribee Open Range Zoo, visitors are invited to a very special celebration – Hippo Pansy’s third birthday!

16 November 2016
Hippo Calf Pansy 2nd Birthday

Hip Hip Hooray for Hippo Pansy

Hippo calf Pansy will turn two this Wednesday, 18 November at Werribee Open Range Zoo.

16 November 2015
Slumber Safari 2016 YouTube video

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 overlooking Australian Journey. 

Discount Thursdays and Adults Only December and January Dates now available for bookings.  

Open Vehicle Adventure YouTube 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.

  • 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