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Werribee Open Range Zoo

Hippos get check on World Oral Health Day

20 March 2019

Open wide and say “Ahhh!” - it’s World Oral Health Day!

In celebration, Werribee Open Range Zoo’s pod of five female hippopotamus offered their pearly whites to be checked by keepers today as part of their regular oral health care routine. They were then treated with a swim, a snack and a splash from a hose.

Zoos Victoria has partnered with Dental Health Services Victoria since 2017 to raise awareness about the importance of oral health care, with Werribee Zoo’s hippos the perfect toothsome ambassadors.

Just like humans, hippos require regular dental checkups – the herbivores’ diet of grass and plants can sometimes result in tricky sticks and seeds getting lodged in between their gums and teeth.

And with hippos possessing some of the largest sets of teeth in the animal kingdom, a brief tooth-brushing simply won’t do.

So how do you give a hippo an oral health check?

Werribee Zoo’s team of keepers and staff have designed training programs to allow non-invasive health checks for many of their animals, including oral checks.

“Animal training helps us to perform non-intrusive health checks,” Hippo Keeper Ross Taylor said. “For our hippos, it allows us to open their mouths on cue, hose out their gums, pick out any grass seeds and even file down any sharp teeth that might cause the hippos harm.”

Keepers are a type of substitute for the animal kingdom’s own dentists. “We replace birds and fish. They’re the ones that clean and look after hippos’ teeth in the wild and we do the same job here at Werribee Open Range Zoo,” Mr Taylor said.

Visitors can learn more about Werribee Zoo’s hippos every day at 1:10pm at the hippo keeper talk, as well as learn more about the importance of taking care of your own teeth.

“Oral Care is really important for maintaining overall health for humans as well as our lovely hippos,” Mr Taylor said.