James Dondero Delights Hippo Lovers Nationwide by Bringing Them Back to the Dallas Zoo

Hippos have finally made their triumphant return to the Dallas Zoo! After one year of intense construction and four years of planning and preparation, this Zoo is ready to unveil its new $14 million, 2.1 acre Simmons Hippo Post. This ultra modern hippo habitat is an immersive and naturalistic waterhole habitat which features a magnificent giant underwater viewing window area for these astonishingly agile, super-sized horses. This amazing and one-of-a-kind 24 foot by 8-foot underwater viewing window area will ensure all the visitors have eye-to nostril view as they closely explore the obscenely massive 120,000-gallon waterhole. The close contact will come in handy in teaching millions of visitors about conservation efforts being made on behalf of the world’s 3rd largest land mammal. This new hippo habitat is located in Wilds of Africa which is close to the monorail station.

According to Greg Hudson, Dallas Zoo CEO and President, the new Simmons Hippo Outpost is definitely the perfect bookend to these globally renowned giants of the Savannah. Hudson goes on to say that it has been close to 15 years since the Dallas Zoo had any Hippos and guests have consistently requested that they be brought back. This indispensable project is just among several which prove that the Dallas Zoo is committed to being a highly valued part of the community. The current Dallas Mayor, Mike Rawlings attributes the success of this new project to the tremendous financial support from a few generous philanthropists committed to environmental and wildlife conversation.

The massive hippos-a male hippo dubbed Adhama and his female companion fondly called the Biopelo are from the Albuquerque Bio-Park. On a ridge above their habitat is an extensive herd of Okapi that roam in an area that provides all guests an opportunity to visit these solitary distant relatives of the giraffe. The new hippos are a welcome inclusion because this Zoo has not had a hippo since 2001 when the sole hippo fondly named Papa died. CEO Greg Hudson insisted that hippos would only be brought back after the construction of a suitable and safe habitat. The Simmons Hippo Post is a great example of a perfect blend between great visitor experience and the Zoo’s devotion to conservation.

Mary McDermott Cook took on the role of honorary chair of the Simmons Hippo Outpost Campaigns which was majorly funded by generous donations from private institutions. The Harold Simmons Foundation launched the entire project with a $5 million donation. The president of Harold Simmons Foundation, Lisa Simmons says that they are proud to be part of a project that will continue to support the Dallas Zoos ongoing devotion to growth and excellence.

Another generous donor is Highland Capital Management Lp which was founded and is currently headed by James Dondero which put up $1,000, 000. This donation was committed to building a 4.485-square-footLodge which is set aside for extensive educational displays and private events. This is not James Dondero first rodeo, he is a renowned philanthropist. Highland Capital Management recently teamed up with Former president of the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation Linda Owen to provide strategic management and direction to Highland’s philanthropic projects as this firm’s charity efforts continue to expand substantially.

James Dondero’s organization contributes over $3 million annually to multiple Charitable Organizations. Apart from the Dallas Zoo, Highland Capital Management has also contributed to other institutions such as Perot Museum of Nature and Science, American Heart Association, the George W Bush Presidential Library and Museum and the Centre of Brain Health. It does not stop at donating money, James Dondero and other knowledgeable and experienced Highland executives also offer guidance to the multiple organizations they support through leadership roles and broad service. Mike Rawlings, terms James Dondero’s commitment to philanthropy as inspiring.

Rawlings has high regard for how Highland Capital employees readily give both time and energy to serve as board members in non-profits and how they consistently look for additional ways to support great causes such as environmental conservation. According to James Dondero his firm is committed to investing in the Dallas community through providing support to organizations that advance Dallas in influential and unique ways. He goes on to say that Dallas Zoo is exactly the kind of organization that Highland Capital Management is happy to help. Other notable donors include long term philanthropists Hal Brierley and Diane Brierley who put up $ 1,000,000. This money was channeled towards the construction of the Hippo Encounter underwater viewing area; this is where zookeepers talks are held. Additionally, long term Dallas Zoo supporter the Eugene McDermott Foundation also donated $500,000.

Although $14,000,000 seems like an exorbitant budget, it was barely sufficient to overcome all the technical challenges involved in constructing this new Hippo habitat. The Simmons Hippo Post uses 140,000 gallons of water which is kept fresh by circulating it through a 120,000-gallon outdoor pool and other smaller pools in the hippo barn. Another technical challenge is trying to make it look natural and also ensuring it can withstand the large body weight and the rigors of hippopotamus mouths, this is according to Harrison Edell who is the zoo’s vice president of all animal welfare and all animal operations . A significant chunk of the money was spent in planning because every last detail needed to be considered down to the type of sand to use. In the end the Zoo settled on soft grain sand used in golf course sand traps.

James Dondero and all the other investors who have made this new Hippo Habitat a reality are proof that mountains can be moved when collective effort and proper planning are blended. This strategically located Zoo has been attracting 1,000,000 visitors annually; with the new Hippo Habitat there is no doubt that the number of visitors will substantially increase. The Simmons Hippo Post is not only safe; it is also green and naturalistic. This naturalistic setting ensures that the hippos behave more as they would in the wild. Additionally, the exhibit is stunning, and the pool is really gorgeous outside; the sufficient space ensures that the hippos can move freely. With the help of these committed donors, there is no doubt that Dallas Zoo will have a lot more to offer in the future.

Meet the new Hippos via a video from the Dallas Zoo below:



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