Halloween treats for hungry hippos…

West Midland Safari Park has been celebrating the spookiest of seasons by treating their hippos to a game of ‘pumpkin bobbing’!

The Park is home to a pod of six common hippopotamus – the largest pod in Europe, which spend most of their time wallowing on the mud bank next to their lake. They are most active when food is involved and normally enter the water at the daily hippo encounters.

At the encounters, the hippos are usually fed large chunks of cabbage, however, at this time of year, the Park is abundant with pumpkins – part of the theming for the Park’s Spooky Spectacular event, which runs until 3 November.

Therefore, to save the pumpkins going to waste, the keepers often swap the cabbage for the spooky squashes, which also forms part of the hippos’ daily enrichment programme, aiming to encourage natural behaviours.

Although a hippo would never come across a pumpkin in the wild, it is important that the hippos’ skin is always kept moist, so being inquisitive animals, the floating pumpkins help entice the animals into the water, even on colder days.

Ian Nock, Deputy Head Keeper of Ungulates, said: “It is an important part of a keeper’s job to try and provide enrichment in different ways for the animals in our care. The six hippos we have here at the Safari Park get cabbage daily at our hippo encounters, which guests can throw into the water for them. However, at this time of year the Park has been themed with over 600 pumpkins, so the keepers often swap these with the animals’ normal vegetables.”

He continued: “Being herbivores, a hippo’s diet consists of plants, grass and vegetables, so having pumpkins is a perfect seasonal treat for them. Plus, there is the added attraction that the pumpkins float, so this means that they get to play with them first, which provides extra exercise before getting to eat this tasty treat!”