Vic hippos, rhinos treated to day spa

Victoria's Werribee Zoo has pampered its rhinos and hippos ahead of the hot summer.
Victoria's Werribee Zoo has pampered its rhinos and hippos ahead of the hot summer.

A day spa-like pampering is out of the question for locked down Melburnians at the moment - unless you're a two-tonne rhino or hippo.

Ahead of a warm and windy spring, Victoria's Werribee Zoo this week lavished some of its largest residents with beauty treatments typically associated with a health spa.

Six southern white rhinoceros were covered in full-body mud-masks and five nearby hippos sprayed with a fine mist of bath oil and treated with manuka honey ointment.

The treatments are designed to protect the animals' skin from drying or chapping in Australia's harsh conditions.

It's hardly special treatment, part of monthly healthcare routines, but is ramped up over winter and spring.

Rhino and hippos traditionally dip into ponds and wallow in mud to regulate body temperature and rehydrate, with the skincare regime complementing their natural habits.

Keeper Laura Harbridge said hippos secrete an oily substance that acts as a quasi-sunscreen, allowing them to divide their time between land and water.

"We give this natural process a helping hand with the oil spray and ointment to keep their skin healthy and hydrated," she said.

The two species are native to sub-tropical Africa where summer seasons are typically wet and humid - a far cry from Australia's usually hot and dry weather through December and February.

The Werribee Zoo keepers hand-coated the rhinos with the mud, preventing sun damage and promoting kinship.

"This helps develop trust between the rhino and the keeper, making routine health check-ups easier and any necessary close contact interactions safer and more enjoyable for everyone," Ms Harbridge said.

Australian Associated Press