Happy the Hippo has a big problem. His tusks are growing in the wrong direction and causing him discomfort as they get too long. To fix this problem we used to anesthetise Happy and cut his tusks down, but to ensure this problem doesn’t occur again Happy is learning a new skill!
We have been conditioning Happy to open his mouth and place his top and bottom jaws around a railing so that we can regularly file down his tusks. This keeps the tusks at a comfortable level for Happy and means he won’t need to be anesthetised in the future. Plus Happy enjoys the interaction and also the food rewards he gets for doing what we need him to do.
Who says you can’t teach a Hippo new tricks? Actually I think the saying is an old dog new tricks but in Happy’s case he is a star pupil nonetheless.
- Anthony, Hippo Keeper