The World’s Most Sustainable Hippo Exhibit

Posted November 20, 2017

As much as visitors love to watch Fiona and Bibi, there’s one fun fact not everyone may know about Hippo Cove. Head to the left end of the exhibit for a peek inside the world’s most sustainable hippo exhibit.

As the Greenest Zoo in America, we made sustainability a priority in building Hippo Cove. One of a handful of underwater hippo viewing tanks at zoos around the country, this 70,000-gallon exhibit is a true feat of engineering.

Hippo exhibit (Photo: DJJAM)
Hippo exhibit (Photo: DJJAM)

The river hippo, the third largest land animal on Earth, eats a lot. A lot of food going in means a lot of waste coming out. Since the idea is to let visitors watch our hippos move around under water, we need to keep that water clear. We want a great visitor experience and comfortable hippos.

Hippo Cove’s state-of-the-art filtration system processes the waste. A rotating conveyer belt removes larger items like fecal matter and straw for compost. Then, sand filters remove more dirt, and microfibers chemically balance the water. You may also notice the tilapia (fish) swimming around in there. They act as a natural clean-up crew.

Fabulous Fiona the hippo! (Photo: Kathy Newton)What’s more, the water is recycled. When you watch Bibi and Fiona, you may not know you’re standing on top of a 400,000-gallon cistern. It collects rainwater from a whole swath of the Zoo and treats it for reuse.

So next time you visit, remember there’s more to Hippo Cove than meets the eye. Much time, expertise, and investment went into building an amazing and sustainable hippo home.

Saving Water Helps Wild Hippos

Hippo habitat in the wild has been greatly reduced over the last 200 years. Once common to all of Africa, hippos are now abundant only in East Africa. They’re listed as vulnerable by the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.

It may not seem like conserving water all the way over here in Cincinnati affects hippos on the other side of the world. However, we all share one finite supply of fresh water. By taking action to reduce water use, whether at the Zoo or at home, we all help protect habitats that are home to hippos and numerous other species.

Take shorter showers! (Photo: Steven Depolo)
Take shorter showers! (Photo: Steven Depolo)

Try these few of these simple actions at home:

  • Turn off the water while you brush your teeth.
  • Shorten your showers by just one minute.
  • Only run the dishwasher when it’s full.
  • Water your houseplant with “stale” water leftover in your reusable water bottle.
  • Set up a rain barrel to capture rainwater and use it to water your garden.