As we’re sure you can imagine, moving a hippo into a new
exhibit is not an easy task. But, moving TWO hippos into a new exhibit takes twice
the effort. To transfer our beloved "Binti" and "Splish" into their new humble
abode at the Zambezi River Hippo Camp (opening this spring), keepers Dena and
Mandino will put each hippo in a 15’ x 5’ wooden crate that will then be lifted
by a crane and carefully placed inside their new habitat.
Crate training may seem unusual to the average animal lover,
but it’s a very common way to prepare large animals at zoos across the country
for transportation. The keys are consistency, time and patience – lots and lots
of patience. It can take a while to get animals to come to terms with “the crate,”
especially ones as strong-willed as our diva hippos. To prepare Binti and
Splish for the big move, keepers placed the crate inside their current home so
they would become familiar with it. Strategically positioned at the entrance of
their night house, the crate serves as a runway for the animals to walk through
as they move between their night house and exhibit.
The girls were a bit unsure of the large crate at first, but
now love to take long naps inside of it, oftentimes “fighting” over who gets to
snooze in it first. Clearly, our end goal of getting the duo into the crate
willingly and without reward was a success. This allows the animals to be
transported successfully and almost voluntarily while lowering the risk of
injury and stress to themselves and their keepers.
Next time you visit the Zoo, stop by the hippo house and see
if you can catch Binti trying to lure Splish out of the crate so she can take
her daily nap. They sure are a funny pair! Be sure to watch their antics on
Twitter at @Hippos901 too!