Otago Daily Times

Zoo animals learn to ‘open wide’


MELBOURNE: Even animals need the occasional oral checkup and, unlike most dentistdes­pising children, some residents at a Victorian Zoo are welcoming it.

Keepers have trained hippos, lions and a cheetah at Werribee Open Range Zoo to voluntaril­y open their mouths using special hand cues.

Like children receiving a lollipop after seeing the doctor, the animals are rewarded with their favourite food once they open up and say ‘‘ahh’’.

It does not always make for pretty viewing, especially with the hippos, but allows the staff to monitor oral health and brush or clean teeth if need be.

Animal training coordinato­r Kelly Hobbs said the stressfree approach to oral care stemmed from months of ongoing training, positive reinforcem­ent and trustbuild­ing.

The openmouth training is just one of the several methods Werribee Zoo keepers are using to provide lessintrus­ive care for its creatures. — AAP

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? A hippopotam­us.
GETTY IMAGES A hippopotam­us.

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