Cincinnati Zoo’s Hippo Exhibit is On Track to Make a Big Splash in 2016!

Posted October 15, 2015

hippounderwatercincinnatizooFundraising goal met for final phase of AFRICA exhibit construction

Cincinnati, OH (October 15, 2015)— Hippos are coming back to Cincinnati! After a nearly 20-year hippo hiatus, visitors can look forward to seeing these charismatic creatures at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in the summer of 2016, when the much-anticipated $7.3 million hippo exhibit is scheduled to open.

VIDEO: About the new exhibit

“The Cincinnati business community and thousands of individuals stepped up to make this big dream a reality. It’s wonderful to see the exhibit take shape, and we appreciate all the help we received to make it happen,” said Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard.

“The hippo exhibit would not have been possible without the lead gift from The Farmer Family Foundation and more than twenty gifts of $25,000 and above.  We’re thankful to all the businesses and individuals who said yes when we asked for support,” said Reba Dysart, Director of Development at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Guests proudly wear hippo t-shirts purchased to raise funds for hippo

Guests proudly wear hippo t-shirts purchased to raise funds for hippo
Guests proudly wear hippo t-shirts purchased to raise funds for hippo

The remaining funds came from private donations, fundraisers (hippo t-shirt campaign & happy hours at Taste of Belgium) and individual contributions including one from an eight-year-old girl who asked her friends and family to give her money for the hippo exhibit instead of birthday presents. She presented a $1,000 check to Thane Maynard at the hippo construction site. Zoo staff solicited donations by expressing their desire for hippos in a music video.

hipporendering            The new exhibit will feature a nose-to-nostril underwater viewing area and a scenic overlook where visitors can admire the full girth of the two Nile hippos that will call the 70,000-gallon exhibit pool home. The water used in the pool will be crystal clear, thanks to a sophisticated filtration system specifically engineered to handle the 50 pounds of waste that the hippo pair will produce daily.

A construction milestone was reached recently when a giant crane lifted and placed 24 4’ wide by 36’ long by 10” thick panels on top of the filtration building.  “The filtration system was, by far, the most expensive piece of the exhibit, so it’s fitting that the roof was put in place, in spectacular fashion, the same day that we officially reached our fundraising goal for this project,” said Maynard.

hippo2016A total of $34 million was raised to build AFRICA, the largest animal exhibit in Cincinnati Zoo history. Phases I & II were completed in 2010 and included an expanded yard for the Maasai giraffe, a new greater flamingo exhibit, and a new and improved Cheetah Encounter where guests witness cheetahs doing what they do best – running! Phase III was completed in 2013 and included a new African lion exhibit, a reinvented cheetah exhibit, and a newly renovated Base Camp Café. Phase IV brought painted dogs, a wide variety of hoof stock and African birds, and meerkats.  The hippo exhibit will complete AFRICA!

As with all Cincinnati Zoo projects, the hippo exhibit is being built to Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) standards, pursuing Gold certification.  “As the greenest Zoo in America, we are always looking for ways to improve the way we build and operate,” said Mark Fisher, Vice-President of Facilities and Planning at the Cincinnati Zoo.  “We’ve saved 1 billion gallons of water since 2005 and are working on reducing consumption and waste even more. To help us achieve that goal, water used in the hippo pool will be 100% rain water.”  Much of that water will come from stormwater tanks that sit under the Zoo’s lion exhibit.

The hippos coming to Cincinnati have received a breeding recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP). Breeding plans work to improve the genetic diversity of managed animal populations. If all goes well, baby hippos could be in the Zoo’s future.

Nile hippos, also known as river horses, are vegetarians and weigh about 5,000 pounds (that’s a lot of fruits and veggies).  In spite of their enormous size, they can run as fast as a human and can be aggressive and dangerous. Don’t worry, seven plies of ½” laminated glass built to withstand 4500psi of water pressure and the impact of a Hippo going 10 mph will be between visitors and hippos!

AFRICA is FREE with regular Zoo admission.