Join our zoo community

Memphis Zoo Zambezi River Hippo Camp

Discussion in 'United States' started by RetiredToTheZoo, 5 May 2016.

  1. RetiredToTheZoo

    RetiredToTheZoo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    25 Jun 2015
    Posts:
    77
    Location:
    Mid South, USA
    I had an opportunity yesterday to visit the newly opened (6 days ago) Zambezi River Hippo Camp exhibit at the Memphis Zoo. I was impressed, and in my opinion, this very well done. These are my toughts as I went thru the exhibit.

    It is a 4 acre, single path loop with one small branch loop, that is easily traversed in either direction, with definite entry/exit points at both ends.
    I entered at the point closest to the main zoo entrance. The first enclosure I noticed was the Lesser Flamingos. A flock of about 50 with a good size pool that has a bowl shaped concrete island, filled with dirt, in the middle. The pool is surrounded by white sand. The flamingos are all different ages and seemed to stay on the island.

    [​IMG]

    Next to the Flamingos is an area that is supposed to represent a Zambezi stream, with a dugout canoe in it. I didn't see any fish or wildlife in it, and am not sure what it's intended purpose is. It looked to me like it was just a filler, and perhaps will house something else in the future.

    Across from the flamingos is an area housing Patas Monkeys, an endagered male Okapi, and a male and female Nyala. The Patas Monkey enclosure contains 4 individuals, is big enough with enough structure to give the small monkeys room to run. They seemed to be the most well adapted to their new surroundings. They were running, playing, chasing, and grooming each other, paying no attention to the people and happenings around them. Next to the Patas Monkeys are the Okapi and Nyala enclosures. I thought these were a little small, but maybe the're big enough and provide enough cover for one or two animals. The grass was very lush. We will see how that holds out, as these are grazing animals (they were being fed hay also).

    The path makes a curve, which contains a playground area with native type drums that kids banged on all day, and enters the underwater veiwing area of the hippo enclosure. This veiwng area spans the entire lenght of the hippo pool, which I guessed to be about 50-75 ft long and 15-20 ft Wide. It has about 8-10 angled viewing portals that are about 8ft wide by 6 ft high and about a ft or two off the ground.

    The water level is about chest high on most adults and provides the opportunity to view the hippos at their eye level above the water as well as underwater. The are no bad views from this area. (I could do without the cheesy running water/splashing sounds being piped in thru cheap sounding speakers.) There are a lot of fish in the pool also, and according to a keeper, Splish, a hippo born at the Memphis Zoo, and has spent her entire life there, totally freaked out over them as she had never seen a fish. She seems to accept it now.

    [​IMG]

    This viewing area empties into an empty, large, round, tall, open span building. I suspect it will be an education/conference/ special events center. From here you can go across the building into the underwater veiwing area for the Nile Crocodiles, take a loop thru an aivary, or go up one story via stairs or elevator to an observation deck. I chose to go up to the hippo obersvation deck. It is an view down the entire lenght of the hippo enclosure. There is a smaller deck for the keepers where one was throwing out pieces of melons and spraying a fire hose into the pool in an effort to get the hippos to come down to that end, but they were having no part of that, and stayed at the far end.

    [​IMG]

    On the other side of the round building is the obersvation deck for the Nile Crocodile enclosure. This is much like the hippo area only not as big. There are four adult crocs, all very uniform and about 10-12 ft. long or longer. According to one of the docents I spoke with, these crocodiles all came from a crocodile farm. That explains their uniformity. There are plenty of logs and rock like structures they can sun in, and like the hippo area, there is a white sand beach area. At the far end of the obersvation deck is a set of stairs down (or you can go back to the stairs/elevator in the round building) and enter the underwater crocidille viewing area. This is much like the hippo area, water level about chest high on an adult. It was hard to see though. I was there in the morning with the sun shinning in on the glass, a lot of glare.

    [​IMG]

    At the far end of the crocodile enclosure is a small one way loop thru an outdoor netted aviary (it may have a top that can be covered in bad weather) with a varity of species. Inside are netted areas separating some of the birds. One holds Demoislle Cranes, another has Caped Vultures, and I've forgotten what was in the third. Having the run of the entire aviary are various waterfowl and egrets. I thought the area for the caped vultures is very small. There are 4 vultures in there, and with one wing flap they go from one end to the other.

    [​IMG]

    This is a much needed upgrade for the hippos and, has allowed the Memphis Zoo to bring in some additional species. I went by the old Zambezi River Hippo Camp just to remind myself how bad the area was. The building dates back to 1955 and the pools date back to 1919.

    [​IMG]

    Some interesting facts I got according to the Memphis Zoo docent I spoke with, are the Okapi is highly endangered, very reclusive, and only lives in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This particular individual came from the Houston Zoo and was sent there by the SSP. The size of the hippo pool is tied with the one at the San Diego Zoo as the largest in a zoo. The total cost of the exhibit was $22 million. $5 million was given to the zoo by the City of Memphis and the other $17 million was from private funding. I noticed each underwater viewing portal was donated by someone and a small plaque at the entrance of the hippo area that says, "Hippo Exhibit A Gift From FedEX Corporation". The most amazing fact, and what makes this a "state of the art" exhibit is the water filtration system. I forgot how many hundreds of millions of gallons this place holds but, each and every gallon is filtered every hour.

    This is just a reflection of my thoughts as I went thru the exhibit. If you are anywhere near Memphis it will be worth it to stop and see this and the entire Memphis Zoo. The pictures I and others took do not do this justice. It is much more impressive than the photos can show. I quess what says it all is, over the entire zoo I heard adults ask young children what they wanted to see next and their reply was almost exactly the same. They excitedly yelled, "Let's go see the Hippos again!"
     
    Last edited: 6 May 2016
  2. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    10 Feb 2009
    Posts:
    5,406
    Location:
    Arizona, USA
    Thank you for a nice detailed review. And bonus points for figuring out how to embed photos within the review, as it is difficult to do on this site. I loved Memphis when I visited years ago (due to the cat area) and this will make a good zoo even better.
     
  3. m30t

    m30t Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    9 Dec 2014
    Posts:
    86
    Location:
    Toronto
    It looks amazing.
    Thanks so much for sharing those pictures!
     
  4. RetiredToTheZoo

    RetiredToTheZoo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    25 Jun 2015
    Posts:
    77
    Location:
    Mid South, USA
    Thank you for your kind comments. This place is truely spectacular.

    I hope I don't have to give back the bonus points, but for some reason the photos disappeared. I edited it to re-embed them. It seems to work ok for now.
     
  5. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    12 Aug 2008
    Posts:
    3,734
    Location:
    California, USA
    Thanks for the review and the pictures. The hippo exhibit looks very nice and like a zillion-fold improvement over the old exhibit. Your before-and-after pictures really illustrate that well.
     
  6. Buldeo

    Buldeo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    8 Aug 2012
    Posts:
    232
    Location:
    The Yay Area
    This is really cool looking! Thanks for taking the time to write this up.

    How much land is available for the hippos to walk on, and is any of it landscaped? I wish more exhibits offered vegetation.
     
  7. zooman

    zooman Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    4 Jul 2008
    Posts:
    1,801
    Location:
    Melbourne, Victoria, Aust
    Hi, thank you for the review. Looks like another great exhibit for a truly remarkable zoo.
    I think many zoos have 1 or 2 and maybe even 3 remarkable exhibits whereas Memphis seems to have many and now no really bad bad exhibits!
     
  8. RetiredToTheZoo

    RetiredToTheZoo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    25 Jun 2015
    Posts:
    77
    Location:
    Mid South, USA
    There is a little more space to left of the sand area at the far end. To left at the near end is the housing area. If I was to be critical of anything, I would like to see a little more land area for the hippos to roam, but I know space is tight.

    Memphis seems to have some very innovative, creative, and aggressive leadership over the last 30 years or so. They have a willingness to think big and take risks. There are still some bad areas. The herpetarium and aquarium come to mind. I would like to see them take the old hippo area and build a state of the art aquarium. The next project seems to be an elevated boardwalk nature trail thru 17 acres of pristine old growth forest in Overton Park adjacent to the zoo.
     
  9. gerenuk

    gerenuk Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    4 Jul 2010
    Posts:
    751
    Location:
    USA
    ...or maybe the zoo is just well funded?
     
  10. Milwaukee Man

    Milwaukee Man Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    1 Aug 2011
    Posts:
    2,158
    Location:
    Milwaukee, WI, USA
    This sounds like a great exhibit area! Couple questions when looking at the map on Hippo Camp's website (Home):

    *Where are the nyala located?

    *Also, it shows the hippos can have access to another upper exhibit area. Is that no longer the case?

    Great review by the way! :)
     
  11. RetiredToTheZoo

    RetiredToTheZoo Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    25 Jun 2015
    Posts:
    77
    Location:
    Mid South, USA
    Thank you for your kind comments. I wish everyone could see this in person.

    I think the map they have on the website is an early drawing, and the final exhibit tuned out a little different. As you go into the exhibit thru the entry structure, the Patas Monkeys are on the right where it says primates. Where the map shows Okapi, I don't remember a pool or stream of water there, and that area is split into two enclosures with the first one next to the monkeys housing the Okapi and next to it an enclosure with the Nyala.

    I don't recall seeing an upper hippo exhibit area. I think at least part of that got turned into the playground. Also, I don't remember the area of primates and birds off the Central Pavilion being there.

    I will be going back in a week or two and will be sure to check out that upper hippo exhibit area if it exists.
     
  12. gerenuk

    gerenuk Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    4 Jul 2010
    Posts:
    751
    Location:
    USA
    The Nyala are probably just a filler species until the zoo acquires another Okapi.