A quiet weekday at Melbourne Zoo, and just off the rainforest path, Petre, a 28-year-old pygmy hippo, sinks into the warm water and waits for love. She will likely be waiting a while.
This is a time of quiet anticipation for the zoo's southernmost residents. Zookeepers have brought Petre here from Taronga Zoo to mate with Felix, an import from the Cairns Wildlife Safari.
The mating process is delicate. Zookeepers are monitoring the hippos' behaviour to gauge the right moment for the two to be introduced; too early and Felix could feel the full force of Petre's teeth. The process could take a year or two. Meanwhile, the pygmy hippos wait in separate enclosures in the zoo's Royal Park home. Patience is everything.
For 150 years, the zoo has been a haven for endangered species. But the animals may now be facing a threat to their sanctuary. The first stage of the proposed 18-kilometre cross-city toll road includes a six-kilometre tunnel running within 300 metres of the zoo's southern corner....