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Hippo Enrichment

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by ZooElephantsMan, 7 Jun 2015.

  1. ZooElephantsMan

    ZooElephantsMan Well-Known Member

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    So I was trying to think of creative hippo enrichment, and I want to know what you guys have seen or can think of. I know obviously water and training the hippos, but I want something kind of like toys. I have seen zoos give hippos boomer balls, but not much else. What do you guys think?
     
  2. Elephas Maximus

    Elephas Maximus Well-Known Member

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    Our pygmy hippo plays with ball, dead palm tree trunk, artificial grass mat and large (5 litres) plastic botles.
     
  3. ZooElephantsMan

    ZooElephantsMan Well-Known Member

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    Do the bottles have food in them like a puzzle feeder or does the hippo just play out of curiousity?
     
  4. Elephas Maximus

    Elephas Maximus Well-Known Member

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    Empty bottles are swimming on the water surface, and Eve just pushes them (and crushes eventually)
    Also she likes to play with water hose, when the pool is being filled.
     
  5. condershire

    condershire Member

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    We have toys of plastic (plastic 35 gallon water bottles, plastic discs, etc.) here in Albuquerque, NM. Another thing we have is "feeding time". At 2:00 pm daily, the hippos get fed sweet potatoes, lettuce, celery, etc as a "treat". There is a video on Youtube of two of our hippos (Karen & Boopie) playing with a red ball in their exhibit.

    The hippos enjoy different toys, for example, Moe (the oldest male, 41 years old) likes the white plastic toys while Karen, the older female (13) seems to like the barrels. I have not seen the red ball in their enclosure. You will probably need to experiment with different things to see what gets the most attention.

    We have 4 hippos now at the Albuquerque zoo and while the exhibit is not on par with some of the bigger contenders, I am grateful we have what we have!!! By the way, Elephas Maximus, I think I have seen a photo of you with a water hose playing with a hippo!

    By the way, I do not work at the zoo, just a really big fan!!!
     
  6. ZooElephantsMan

    ZooElephantsMan Well-Known Member

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    I also do not work at a zoo. My home zoo is the Franklin Park Zoo in massachusetts in the United States, and we have 2 pygmy hippos here. Our exhibit is ok. It has underwater viewing, and the water is not clear, so that is good for the hippos (not so good for us). It is also all indoors. Some people do not like it when exhibits are all indoors, but I think it is fine. One of the hippos seems to be bored a lot so I wanted to make this thread for ideas and maybe show this to people at the zoo.
     
  7. Elephas Maximus

    Elephas Maximus Well-Known Member

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    It's not me :)
     
  8. condershire

    condershire Member

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    Much of this goes in hand with the handlers, our handler here in Albuquerque is AWESOME and genuinely cares about what he is doing, as do much of the other staff! I would speak to the handler. I believe our handler here initiated the "feeding time" deal for the hippos and it proved VERY POPULAR! Even an "anonymous" suggestion. I think much of it lies in how much freedom the "exhibit manager" (probably not the right term) has in implementing new ideas and how much support he/she receives from the staff.

    I've never been to Massachusetts, but I suspect weather is a large factor in keeping them indoors. Our pool is heated to 80 degrees Fahrenheit year round. My wife and I visited one day when it was 26 degrees outside and the hippos seemed quite happy in their "hot tub", even coming out for feeding!!! In Albuquerque, we have very MILD winters and the summers are not too bad, either.

    Develop some kind of rapport with the keeper and make a suggestion, you might be the person who gets things going, bored hippos are not happy hippos!

    For the older hippo, we had a birthday party of sorts where watermelons were carved into the shape of alligators on the "shore" of the pond. The girls were initially nervous, but Moe, the "birthday boy" dove right into his treat! Worked out very well!

    I hope some of this helps and really wish you luck with this!
     
  9. condershire

    condershire Member

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    Oh, it was kind of cool seeing a "full contact" enclosure. In the US, some zoos are full contact and some partial. It was a neat photo, I'll have to dig it up or provide a link, I'm fairly sure I saw it here on ZooChat...
     
  10. condershire

    condershire Member

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    Got it! Here is the link, you posted it, awesome photo!

    [​IMG]
     
  11. ZooElephantsMan

    ZooElephantsMan Well-Known Member

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    WOW. That is REALLY dangerous. I have seen free contact with pygmy hippos before, but with common hippos it sounds crazy.

    At my zoo, the pygmy hippos are in a big tropical rainforest building. The building looks like this:

    [​IMG]

    Even though my zoo has a building like this, it still struggles financially, and doesn't have any other big and cool exhibits.

    It is really nice and immersive inside.

    The Tropical Forest building's main curator is really nice and runs a gibbon studbook. She is not on the level of a zookeeper though. She pays attention to the collection and watches them a lot. There are two pygmy hippos. One looks bored a lot and the other is young, fun, and energetic.
     
  12. condershire

    condershire Member

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    I don't know if full contact is "dangerous", even with a hippo. There are many variables to consider, and there are zoos here in the US that are full contact with hippos. Each one is different, which I think is a good thing.

    The picture does not show of your zoo, and it is sad to hear that your zoo is struggling financially, hopefully only temporary! It is my understanding that pygmy hippos are quite endangered, so having a pair at your location is treat!
     
  13. ZooElephantsMan

    ZooElephantsMan Well-Known Member

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    The picture is supposed to show the building they are in. It is more than an acre big. It was built in 1989 for 25 million dollars. The zoo can't make big stuff like that anymore. It looks like the picture in this link:

    http://www.anc-d.u-fukui.ac.jp/~ish...80-ms-USA/Photo/African Tropical Forest-1.jpg

    the actual hippo exhibit its self inside the building looks like that:

    http://www.zoochat.com/566/tropical-forest-pygmy-hippo-ruppells-vulture-286621/

    The pool is on the left. The exhibit is really nice and some people say it looks like it is outside and the sky is just really white and cloudy.

    The reason why I say that free-contact with hippos is dangerous is because hippos are known as the most dangerous animals in Africa. There are more human deaths by hippos than any other african animals.
     
  14. condershire

    condershire Member

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    That enclosure does look nice! Yes, hippos are known as probably the most dangerous animal in the world. The figure I see most often quoted is ~3,000 deaths a year, all likely in Africa.

    This being stated, it is important to consider the environment where this behavior is encountered, which is typically much different than a zoo environment. Zoo hippos born and bred in the US and other localities likely do not have any direct experience with the pressures they face in their native habitat such as drought cycles, predation, and other issues. To be fair, their is an instinctual response which could likely be very dangerous, but this is typically mitigated via a consistent environment lacking of scarcity, etc.

    Additionally, it appears to me that handlers typically develop a "trust" with the animals in their care which might counter some of this behavior...

    The lack of human deaths attributed to zoo care of hippos is significant and telling, save for a recent pygmy hippo incident, in Europe, I believe...

    An interesting side note is the river hippo population in Colombia, known as the "cocaine hippos". These hippos number around ~60 and currently inhabit a relatively sparsely populated area. This has not stopped the locals from interacting with them and to date, I have not read any articles or reports about attacks. The lack of pressure on the population may very well lend to a more docile behavior.

    I'm not suggesting that there will be zero issues and I certainly would not want to be swimming in the same pond or river they are in, but there are likely other factors that bear in...
     
  15. ZooElephantsMan

    ZooElephantsMan Well-Known Member

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    Do you mean there are invasive species hippos in columbia (south america)? That is crazy. Do they live in the wild? Will someday it just be normal to see Hippos in south america? Shouldn't that be a major concern?
     
  16. condershire

    condershire Member

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    They are invasive in as far as they were imported by Pablo Escobar in the 90's... From my reading, (3) females and (1) male were imported and began to breed following Pablo's death. Quite a few of the zoo animals were delivered to other facilities or possibly euthanized (cannot confirm this). The hippos remained...

    There is a documentary about the "cocaine hippos" on Youtube, I think it was done by either the BBC or National Geographic. There are no absolute numbers as of now, many of them (the hippos) have made their way to other parts and there numbers are increasing significantly, the last estimate which was done late 2014 (???) indicated 50-60 are likely to exist in Colombia.

    Issues that favor the hippos in Colombia are:

    - No drought/rainy season which typically places pressure on native hippo populations in Africa
    - No natural predators
    - Plenty of food available
    - No significant friction between humans and hippos which would likely lead to depredation efforts (these hippos live in a VERY rural area)

    In other words, they are in "hippo heaven" right now. The Colombian Army recently efforted the removal of a troublesome male (there was some controversy about this, not so much with the army, but the owner of a local Porsche dealership supposedly was involved, possibly shooting the animal). The male's name was called "Pepe" by the locals, I don't have any accurate information as to what problems he was supposedly creating but the female and calf were left alone after a public outcry.

    Given current conditions, it is likely that the hippo population in Colombia will continue to grow in size and impact the ecosystem, in both positive and negative ways, I imagine. It is not feasible to relocate the population, particularly considering the possibility of transporting disease not endemic to Africa or other parts via a Colombian hippo. There is a significant reticence on the part of the Colombian public to eliminate the hippos via depredation.

    Some folks, including myself, see the hippo population in South America as a sort of "bastion" against possible extinction in Africa (probably not likely, but you never know). It is very NORMAL for animals and plants to propagate around the globe via various means, whether it be in the cargo hold of a ship, floating on a piece of wood, or in this case, brought in by a major drug dealer. In other words, this would appear to be a normal process, irrespective of the means by which they arrived.

    In the future, those folks in Colombia might find the hippos a revenue source, you have to remember, there were serious plans to bring the common river hippo to the US for meat in the 19th century. I'm not saying it was a good idea, just an idea...

    Whether it is "bad" or "good" likely depends on how the Colombian people manage their new "resource" and I hope them well... And I would not mind spending $$$ to go see the Colombian hippos, either...
     
  17. ZooElephantsMan

    ZooElephantsMan Well-Known Member

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    Well how would they survive well? It started as just 4, with 3 females and a male, so they must be doing lots of inbreeding, which is unhealthy for a population.

    Someone is going to eventually realize that they can kill hippos for their ivory teeth.
     
  18. condershire

    condershire Member

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    I had wondered the same thing... I don't have a PhD in biology nor any discipline related to what we are discussing but I SUSPECT what happens is similar to diversification following a "population bottleneck". In other words, the limited number of females coupled with a single male MIGHT be a problem in a dense population of hippos, for example, a pod of 50-100 in a typical African setting, although hippos exist in "harems" where apparently a single male hippo might mate with MANY females and the males that existed in that pod might have to give up mating rites in a trade off for security.

    The variable that favors the Colombian hippos is a lush habitat with a very LOW population density which would favor "expansion" or growth of that species, likely leading to diversification and/or adaptation to the new environment. In other words, given enough time, you'll likely see a NEW species of hippo, out of Colombia, of all places!

    As for the ivory teeth issue, you are right, there is a market for this, although there have been significant efforts towards reducing this. I remember an article written abroad suggesting that rhinos in Africa be "farmed" for their tusks, in other words, not killed, but their tusks be removed periodically and sold on the market, the animals being managed on some sort of ranch or farm. I thought it was brilliant, this might take pressure off existing rhino populations and bring DOWN the price of rhino horn, thus lowering the incentive to poach these animals, the merits of keratin to improve your sex life (found in your fingernails) being another issue entirely, and one that must be solved on a cultural basis in Asia... But hey, if you can protect the rhino AND make loads of money, why not???
     
  19. ZooElephantsMan

    ZooElephantsMan Well-Known Member

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    We would probably all be long gone by the time hippos have evolved enough in columbia for them to be considered a new species.
     
  20. condershire

    condershire Member

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    The process has already begun... You might be surprised at how quickly this can occur...