New pygmy hippos exhibit planned for John Ball Zoo

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – If looking to learn more about endangered species, John Ball Zoo plans to roll out a new exhibit in 2023 showcasing one of the most exotic species, the pygmy hippo.

The two pygmy hippos are expected to arrive in November 2022, weighing between 300 to 600 pounds, according to the John Ball Zoo newsletter.

There are less than 3,000 or these rare hippos left in the wild, the zoo said. Moving them into the zoo’s habitat will be a part of the Species Survival Breeding Plan to preserve them.

When the zoo brings in animals they always have to put them into quarantine for a period of usually two weeks, said Jennifer Czekai, marketing director for John Ball Zoo. However, the rare pygmy hippos will need about four months to get used to their habitat once they arrive, she said.

Construction on the exhibit has been underway for over a year. The enclosure for the hippos is slated to include an expansive outdoor area with a large pool, a mud wall and an underwater viewing area, the zoo said. Guests will be able to enjoy seeing the hippos year-round from the indoor viewing area.

“It’s quite fascinating,” Czekai said about observing the stout animal.

Czekai said John Ball Zoo CEO Peter D’Arienzo has remarked that animals should be living in the wild, but the problem is people.

“People have torn down their habitats, and they’re going into extinction,” she said about D’Arienzo’s sentiments. “And so zoos exist now to help animals come out of extinction. That’s the whole purpose.”

Czekai said the zoo is focused on providing that help.

Zoo leaders are asking the community support its time to Soar fundraising campaign ahead of the of the official April. 14, 2022 public launch. The mission is described as “inspiring our community to be actively engaged in the conservation of wildlife and wild places.’

The funding would support the pigmy hippos and other endangered species, improving guest amenities and habitats and accessibility to the zoo, the Time to Soar campaign will officially launch in April. 14, 2022. To donate, visit the zoo’s website.

As the zoo awaits the arrival of the pygmy hippos, guests can also expect other new animals for the 2023 season, like sitatungas, white storks, koalas and Australian black swans.

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