Tucson Zoo hoping for Hippo exhibit

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Reid Park Zoo needs a new health center for the animals.

The present one is old, small and doesn't fit their needs anymore.

A new one, costing nearly $3.6 million will make the zoo more attractive to the AZA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the zoo accreditation agency.

It may also be a hit with school kids who will participate in the health center and get to see zoo vets in action.

But mostly, it will be a hit with the animals.

The zoo made a half hour presentation to the Tucson City Council updating its master plan.

The council is expected to approve it and when it does, the zoo will begin a capital campaign to pay for it.

When that's finished, comes the want list.

And tops on that list is a new Hippo exhibit costing nearly $7 million.

There's room because the elephants have moved into their new Tanzania exhibit vacating the old elephant enclosure.

That give the zoo room for a new, large exhibit.

A large space needs a large animal.

A hippo fits that bill.

"They seem to be very excited at the idea of bringing a new species to Reid Park Zoo that we've never housed before" says Vivian VanPeenan, the Curator of Education."

"These are just bubbles, lines on a piece of paper right now," she says. But the hope is to bring them to life.

The exhibit would be state of the art and realize a dream for the zoo.

"The pathway would go underground to see underwater viewing of the hippos," she says. "It's a vision that we have to see them in their natural environment."

She says the hippos in the water is where they are most graceful and most active.

But she says it also insures the future of the zoo.

"If we're not continuing to improve, if we're not continuing to upgrade our exhibits then we're not doing a service to our animals or to the guests who enjoy the zoo," she says.

Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.