John Ball Zoo building new exhibit for rare pygmy hippos

Grand Rapids

A 2-day-old male baby pygmy hippo plays in the water at the Taipei Zoo on August 12, 2019. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Construction is underway on a new John Ball Zoo exhibit bringing another endangered animal to Grand Rapids.

The zoo is in the midst of building a new habitat for the pigmy hippopotamus near its front entry, between the gift shop and bald eagle exhibit.

(A 14-day-old pygmy hippopotamus is presented to the press at the Buin Zoo in Chile on July 5, 2017. Photo by: Martin Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images)

John Ball Zoo Marketing Manager Darci David said the new habitat will feature underwater and upper-level viewing areas. It’ll be the first exhibit of its kind built to stringent Living Building Challenge Certification standards, which are higher than LEED certification.

David said the pygmy hippo exhibit will also meet accessibility standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Pigmy hippos are native to the forests and swamps of West Africa. While this hippo is nocturnal and evasive, wildlife experts believe there are fewer than 3,000 of them left in the wild due to habitat loss.

(A baby pygmy hippo walks with her mother at Taronga Zoo on March 17, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. Photo by: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

John Ball Zoo is believed to be the first zoo in Michigan to get pigmy hippos. The zoo’s new exhibit will also house small antelope called a sitatunga, and European white storks.

Through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, John Ball Zoo expects to receive at least one pair of pygmy hippos that will hopefully breed.

The pygmy hippo exhibit is part of John Ball Zoo’s updated master plan.

The zoo plans to share more details about the new exhibit next week. If all goes well, the new pygmy hippo exhibit will open in 2023.

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