New 4-acre Zoo exhibit rehomes hippos

The hippos, crocodiles and flamingos of the Memphis Zoo have new digs.

The Zambezi River Hippo Camp exhibit opens to the public today at the Memphis Zoo with a special ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the occasion. Zambezi is the first major exhibit opening since Teton Trek in 2009. The project marks $23 million of investment into the city -- $5 million from tax payers and the other $18 million from private donations raised by the Memphis Zoological Society.

Once known as the “Hippo Capital of the World,” Zambezi is the culmination of the Zoo’s long history with hippos spanning more than 100 years.

The 4-acre exhibit is a tribute to the animals, culture and architecture of the Zambezi River Valley in Africa featuring hippos and Nile crocodiles with viewing areas that bring visitors up-close and personal with the animals. Zellner Construction Services LLC was the general contractor. Project Manager Carey Ward said the camp is "going back to the roots of Africa as much as possible."

The exhibit feature buildings with thatched roofs, custom African tribal artwork, custom-installed heavy timbers and eucalyptus fencing and a two-story, 76-foot round building that serves as Zambezi Camp's main entrance.

There are three hippos in the new home, including one new male hippo from Disney’s Animal Kingdom (“Uzazi”) and two females from the Memphis Zoo (“Binti” and “Splish”).

Joining them in Zambezi are four Nile crocodiles – three females and one male – that arrived from South Africa via FedEx. Ranging in size from 12 to 14 feet, these crocodiles will be among the largest of their kind in North America. The exhibit is also home to other rare animals such as okapi, nyala antelope and patas monkeys, as well as yellow-backed duikers, lesser flamingos and cape vultures. Other African birds will be featured in a free-flight aviary.

The Zoo worked with local and regional partners to combine state-of- the-art animal facilities and technology to ensure the ultimate cultural experience for visitors. Zambezi was designed by Torre Design Consortium, Ltd. (the architects behind Cat Country, Primate Canyon, CHINA, Northwest Passage and Teton Trek). Engineering services were provided by A2H. Speak Creative designed the microsite, iBeacon program and app for the exhibit.


Read more articles by Anna Mullins.

Anna is a local writer, editor and non-profit administrator. She serves as Managing Editor for High Ground and as the Director of Communications and Marketing for the New Memphis Institute. Share feedback and story ideas with her here.
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