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 the ivory in their teeth and tusks.
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, they are very territorial and very protective of their families and can be very aggressive. A hippo will head for the water if they feel threatened but unfortunately, as it is their habitat and this valuable resource that is often being shared with people, this sometimes results in conflict. Hippopotamuses, especially the males, have large ivory tusks jutting upwards from their lower jaw. They use these tusks for fighting, while grinding food are located at the back of the jaws.
Together we can improve animal care, reduce threatening processes and save endangered species.
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