Zoo to construct new habitat

Courtesy iStock

John Ball Zoo will construct a new pygmy hippo habitat.

The habitat is a part of the zoo’s Time to Soar Public Capital Campaign, which currently is at $18,500,000, $1 million shy of its goal.

“We knew it would be difficult, especially when the pandemic hit, but the West Michigan community is incredibly generous,” said Kyle Irwin, campaign co-chair. “We crossed our fingers and went for it. To our surprise, more than half of our early donors were new to the zoo — people who hadn’t visited for years but agreed to tour and learn more about what the zoo does. Once they did, they were happy to help make the zoo more accessible and sustainable.”

The campaign donation has allowed the zoo to rebuild its infrastructure and add a new Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible entrance, habitats and animals such as pygmy hippos, meerkats, sitatunga, African white cranes and black swans.

The hornbill aviary and meerkat habitats have been completed and have received awards, making John Ball Zoo the only Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) Gold-certified zoo in the world with this distinction. In addition to the habitats, a new entry pathway and a comfort station, which includes two family restrooms and a respite room, were completed.

The two remaining stages of the campaign are the Clean Water project and the Pygmy Hippo Complex. The pygmy hippo habitat will be the anchor exhibit at the entry of the zoo.

The Clean Water project means linking the pygmy hippo habitat and the park pond. This link, accompanying filtration and pumping systems, will make it possible to recycle, clean and reuse 85% of the stormwater onsite to fill the hippo pools and for other uses across the zoo.

“We are excited to invite everyone in our community to join us on this journey,” said Matt Becker, campaign co-chair. “For 131 years, John Ball Zoo has been making memories for our families, schools and visitors. West Michigan should take great pride in what their zoo is doing to conserve wildlife and our environment. Every gift will help complete construction and make it possible to welcome pygmy hippos to the zoo in 2023. We hope everyone will celebrate the work that has already been done and join us in completing the final projects.”

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