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Zoo News

Zoo News

Dallas Zoo begins construction on $13.5 million hippo habitat
Feb 26, 2016

Project features underwater windows into 120,000-gallon African waterhole


The Dallas Zoo begins work today on the new $13.5 million, 2.1-acre Simmons Hippo Outpost, an immersive African waterhole habitat that includes a giant underwater viewing area for these surprisingly agile, super-sized “river horses.”

A 24-foot by 8-foot underwater viewing window will bring guests eye-to-nostril with Nile hippos as they explore the 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.

Scheduled to open in spring 2017, the Simmons Hippo Outpost will be the Zoo’s first major exhibit since the award-winning Giants of the Savanna opened in 2010.

“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.”

“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 massive mammals – one male and two females – will be observed from multiple vantage points. Nearby, 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.

Mary McDermott Cook served as the honorary chair of the Simmons Hippo Outpost campaign, which was funded solely with private donations. A $5 million grant from the Harold Simmons Foundation launched the project.

“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.”

Additional generous donations include:

  • Highland Capital Management LP, $1 million: This donation will build the 4,485-square-foot Highland Capital Lodge for special educational displays and private events.
  • Diane and Hal Brierley, $1 million: The longtime philanthropists and Dallas Zoo supporters are building the Hippo Encounter underwater viewing area, where zookeepers talks also will be held.
  • Eugene McDermott Foundation, $500,000: Longtime supporters of the Dallas Zoo.

“At Highland Capital Management, we invest in the community by supporting organizations that are advancing the Dallas area in unique, influential ways,” said James Dondero, co-founder and president of Highland Capital Management, L.P. “The Zoo is exactly that kind of organization and Highland is proud to assist them in bringing exceptional educational opportunities and experiences like the upcoming exhibit to Dallas.”

Exclusive donor society created

The Dallas Zoo also has created a special opportunity for donors to put finishing touches on the project. Members of the Kiboko Society will receive exclusive benefits, including permanent recognition within the exhibit. Membership in the Society is a limited-time opportunity, available only until the Simmons Hippo Outpost opens in 2017.

Donor levels for the Kiboko Society are:

  • Hippo – $50,000
  • Okapi – $25,000
  • Saddle-billed Stork – $10,000

More information about the Kiboko Society can be found at