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Hippos, hippos, hooray! Dallas Zoo opens new $14 million exhibit
Apr 27, 2017

Simmons Hippo Outpost, home to ‘river horses’ Adhama and Boipelo, is the first major expansion at Texas’s oldest zoo since 2010

The Dallas Zoo will open its new $14 million, 2.1-acre Simmons Hippo Outpost, an immersive African waterhole habitat that includes an underwater viewing area, on April 28.

An official ribbon-cutting at 10:30 a.m. will kick off the three-day, Simmons Hippos Outpost Opening Weekend, featuring special activities and giveaways. 

Adhama climbs on a rock at the Simmons Hippo Outpost.

Adhama climbs on a rock at the Simmons Hippo Outpost.

“This habitat has exceeded our highest hopes,” said Gregg Hudson, Dallas Zoo’s president and CEO. “We’re confident that being face-to-face with a submerged, 3,000-pound hippo will be a highlight for our guests. Even more importantly, this new experience will help our community better understand the critical need for conservation of all species and wild spaces.”

 “The Dallas Zoo has once again set the standard for today’s accredited zoological parks,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “This project is the latest example of how successful public-private partnerships can be, especially when supported by our city’s generous philanthropists. The new Simmons Hippo Outpost brings yet another level of excellence to this world-class facility just three miles from downtown.”

Special Simmons Hippo Outpost Opening Weekend events include:
• The first 500 guests in the zoo each day (Friday-Sunday) will receive a squishy hippo toy.
• Unveiling of a hippo-themed “B-G” statue, part of the popular series from VisitDallas
• #DallasZooHippos photo opportunities with a life-sized ceramic hippo and a costumed hippo
• An okapi keeper chat at 2:15 p.m. and hippo zookeeper chats at 11:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
• Create hippo-related crafts at the Highland Hippo Hut
• Take home special Simmons Hippo Outpost trading cards

The new habitat, home to Adhama (uh-DAHM-a) and Boipelo (BOY-pa-lo), includes a 24-foot by 8-foot viewing window that brings guests eye-to-nostril with the Nile hippos as they explore their 120,000-gallon waterhole. Such close contact will help the zoo teach millions of guests about conservation efforts on behalf of the world’s third-largest land mammal.

The Simmons Hippo Outpost will be the zoo’s first major exhibit since the award-winning Giants of the Savanna opened in 2010.

“This remarkable exhibit is a perfect complement to the Giants of the Savanna, a game-changing habitat that helped kick off the ongoing renaissance here at the Dallas Zoo,” Hudson said. “More than a million guests a year visit us to learn about animals and conservation efforts to protect them, and bringing hippos back has been one of their most consistent requests.”

The surprisingly agile, super-sized “river horses” can be observed from multiple vantage points in the exhibit. An upper-level habitat provides an enhanced home for the zoo’s world-renowned okapi herd. The new habitats are visible from the elevated Wilds of Africa Adventure Safari monorail, and red river hogs will also join the habitat in time.

This habitat opening marks the return of okapi, an endangered species the Dallas Zoo has worked with for more than a half century. The zoo’s five okapi, often called “forest giraffes” in their native Congo, have been off exhibit during construction. The okapi will return with easier visibility in two habitats, plus a special encounter area where guests can meet the stunning animals up-close during the daily 2:15 p.m. keeper chat.

In the Dallas Zoo’s 50-year history of caring for okapi, the animal team has welcomed 36 calves. Dallas has one of the most successful okapi breeding records of any zoo, and staff have continuously contributed to research and promoting improved husbandry practices for this charismatic species. About 75 percent of all okapi in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ Okapi Species Survival Plan (SSP) are related to Dallas Zoo offspring.

The zoo is also a key player in conservation of okapi in the Dominican Republic of Congo in Africa by helping fund the Okapi Conservation Project. Now, Dallas Zoo guests can get closer than ever before to this majestic, endangered species. 

The Simmons Hippo Outpost campaign was funded solely with private donations, beginning with a $5 million grant from the Harold Simmons Foundation launching the project. Additional donations included:

  • Highland Capital Management LP, $1 million: This donation built the Highland Hippo Hut for special educational displays and private events.
  • Diane and Hal Brierley, $1 million: The longtime philanthropists and Dallas Zoo supporters built the Hippo Encounter underwater viewing area, where zookeeper talks also will be held.
  • Eugene McDermott Foundation, $800,000: Longtime supporters of the Dallas Zoo.

A public personalized brick campaign, which honors our community supporters as a permanent part of the exhibit.


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