The Dallas Zoo broke ground Friday on a $13.5 million, 3.5-acre Simmons Hippo Outpost, "an immersive African waterhole habitat that includes a giant underwater viewing area for these surprisingly agile, super-sized 'river-horses.'"
The habitat will house three Nile hippos, one male and two females that can be viewed from a number of locations including a 24-foot by 8-foot underwater viewing window that will bring people eye-to-nostril with the world's third-largest mammal as they explore their 120,000-gallon waterhole.
“The Simmons Hippo Outpost is a perfect bookend to Giants of the Savanna,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo president and chief executive officer. “It’s been 15 years since we had hippos, and our guests have consistently asked us to bring them back. We’re thrilled to be able to do so, after working on this project for several years.”
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The habitat, the first at the zoo since the Giants of the Savanna opened in 2010, is funded solely by private donations. A $5 million grant from the Harold Simmons Foundation is one of many donations made to the project. An additional $1 million each was donated from Highland Capital Management and philanthropists Diane and Hal Brierly.
“Everyone loves hippos, and we’re proud to be a part of their return to the Dallas Zoo,” said Lisa Simmons, president of the Harold Simmons Foundation. “I remember how much fun it was to see them when I visited the Zoo as a child. Also, we are eager to see an outstanding new exhibit at the Zoo that will enhance the visitor’s experience and understanding of the importance of conservation of wild species and their habitats. We’re honored to support the Zoo’s ongoing commitment to excellence through this project.”
The zoo said an upper-level habitat will provide an enhanced home for the Zoo’s world-renowned okapi herd, red river hogs, and saddle-billed storks. Both habitats will be visible from the Zoo’s elevated monorail, the Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari.
“This project is another example of why the Dallas Zoo continues to be such a great part of our community, as well as an important and innovative piece of my Grow South initiative,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “The support from generous philanthropists is key to the successful public-private partnership between the City and the Zoo. This impressive exhibit is sure to bring even bigger things — and I don’t mean just our new 4,000-pound residents.”
The Simmons Hippo Outpost is scheduled to open in spring 2017.