This summer, in just a couple more months, the Cincinnati Zoo will unveil the final piece of its AFRICA expansion: a brand-new Nile hippo exhibit. Hippos haven’t been residents at the Cincinnati Zoo in over 20 years, and so guests should be very excited to not only see hippos again, but also to see them from new perspectives.
The new $7.3-million hippo exhibit will initially be home to two hippos, who will have access to a specially-designed 70,000-gallon pool. As the hippos glide through the water, guests will be able to watch them through underwater acrylic viewing panels.
The hippo pool is not only special for the underwater viewing, which is a first at the Cincinnati Zoo for this species, but also because the pool will be filled with collected rainwater, which makes the exhibit more environmentally friendly. Part of the Cincinnati Zoo’s AFRICA expansion involved the construction of a 400,000-gallon cistern underneath the lion exhibit to collect rainwater, which helps to conserve precious water resources.
The design of the hippo exhibit also includes a unique filtration system, which relies on sand filters and ozone disinfection. The filtration and water-disinfecting systems will get plenty of use, as each individual hippo produces an average of 400 pounds of waste per day!
The entire hippo expansion project is seeking a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification, which will further reinforce the Cincinnati Zoo’s claim as the “greenest zoo in America.” In addition to the rainwater used in the tanks, another “green” aspect of the exhibit is the solar panels that will cover the hippos’ off-exhibit holding building.
Once the exhibit opens, the zoo hopes that the two hippo residents will breed, as they have been matched by the Association of Zoo and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Program (SSP). SSP’s keep track of the genetics of each animal, and match genetically different individuals for breeding so that diversity in the population is maintained.