View Full Version : Pavlovian hippos drool to order for vet

28-02-2007, 11:56:31
Pavlovian hippos drool to order for vet
By Kathy Marks in Sydney
Published: 28 February 2007

An Australian researcher is hoping to help save the threatened hippopotamus by studying samples of drool from animals taught to salivate on command.

The hippo is one of the most dangerous of Africa's animals, and getting close enough to collect samples for analysis has always been a challenge. But Steve Johnston, a Queensland zoologist, said yesterday that he had had some success with a group of Nile hippos at a zoo in Mexico.

One of the zoo's vets has trained the animals to walk into an enclosure and - a bit like Pavlov's dogs - drop their jaws on cue, releasing a flood of slobber in the expectation of being fed. Mr Johnston said: "These things produce a massive amount of saliva. It actually comes out like a drinking fountain, and we collect it in a paper cup." Mr Johnston, a lecturer in reproductive biology, told Australian Associated Press that while hippos bred well in captivity, next to nothing was known about their reproductive cycles. He is hoping to devise a non-invasive test that could determine whether a hippo was pregnant, sexually mature or infertile.

He has twice visited Mexico's largest private zoo, African Safari, and plans to go there again in October. The zoo has 20 hippos, one of the few breeding herds in captivity. They were taught to drool on demand by Gerardo Marinez.

Hippos are notoriously difficult for zookeepers to handle. Some experts say they are the African mammal that has killed most humans. The World Conservation Union says the common hippopotamus is in serious danger of extinction, as a result of poaching and destruction of habitat.

Mr Johnston, based at the University of Queensland's School of Animal Studies, is also planning to collect semen from large animals at the zoo, including white rhinos and giant anteaters. The samples are destined for a study on sperm DNA damage, being conducted in collaboration with the University of Madrid.

Experts at the two universities have developed a technique for measuring sperm DNA damage in certain species, including koalas and echidnas, a spiky Australian anteater. It enables them accurately to predict fertility.

Mr Johnston said anteaters were anaesthetised before their semen was collected but rhinos were kept awake. "The keepers start by rubbing the rhinos on the leg to get them excited," he explained. "It's really a masturbation technique."

This story has it all: Drooling hippos, masturbating rhinos...

No wonder Steve Irwin was such a loon!:lol:

28-02-2007, 12:49:19
what, no penguins?

28-02-2007, 12:58:38
We could probably train them to polish ice with their flippers Mr Miyagi (may he RIP) style...:)

28-02-2007, 22:17:08

Greg W
01-03-2007, 11:52:49
Ah, we Aussies can do it all. :beer:

01-03-2007, 12:57:14
This story might be good, but it's too long to read. :(

01-03-2007, 14:16:31
Well, just read the first and last sentences and basically you have the story!