GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — John Ball Zoo is building a new pygmy hippo habitat as part of a public campaign to update the zoo’s infrastructure.

The zoo said the pygmy hippo habitat will be the “anchor exhibit” located at the front entrance, and it predicts the exhibit will be “an instant hit with visitors.”

Through its Clean Water project, the pygmy hippo habitat will be the first in the country to use sustainable technology to link the habitat with the park pond, using filtration and pumping systems. This will allow JBZ to recycle, clean and reuse 85% of on-site stormwater to fill hippo pools and other exhibits.

The pygmy hippo habitat and the Clean Water Project are the last two stages of JBZ’s Time to Soar campaign, which started in 2018. The zoo found donors and has already raised $18,500,00 to update its facilities. Campaign chairs need just over $1M to meet the goal, JBZ said in a release.

Updates already made to the zoo have included a new entrance, animals and their habitats including meerkats, sitatunga, African white cranes, black swans, and the pygmy hippos. It has also added a playground and a comfort station that includes restrooms and an adult changing table.

The hippo exhibit will be completely installed and open to the public by 2023.

New pygmy hippo exhibit under construction at John Ball Zoo |


3D model of what John Ball Zoo’s Pygmy Hippo exhibit is set to look like. (April 14, 2022)

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