Water’s Edge: Africa

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Water's Edge: Africa Logo


We’re building new homes for our hippos and penguins! This new exhibit will improve their environment and support successful breeding programs for both species, while giving our guests extraordinary new ways to view their daily lives. Nile hippos and African penguins face surmounting threats in the wild, so it’s important that we try to inspire people to take conservation action on behalf of these, and other, species.
A special thank you to the generous donors of the Making Waves capital campaign, which made Water’s Edge: Africa possible.


CONSTRUCTION UPDATE – October 2019 Video



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The word hippopotamus literally means river horse, but hippos are more closely related to pigs. They are native to Africa and can weigh up to 4,000 pounds. They sport massive jaws and tusks, and are equally at home on land or in water. In a word, they are IMPRESSIVE!

Zambezi and Kasai are our resident hippopotami. Zambezi (pronounced zam-BEE-zee) is 24 years old and her favorite treats are melons. She loves to have her tongue rubbed and scratched by her keepers, which was discovered during tooth-brushing sessions to keep her teeth healthy.

Kasai (pronounced Ka-sigh) is 17 years old and has been with us since the age of 2. She is Zambezi’s little sister, and she loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can identify Kasai by the large pink spots on her feet.

Hippos typically live 35-50 years in captivity, so Zambezi and Kasai are in the prime of their lives. Since captive hippos are a bit of a rarity (there are only about 87 on exhibit across the country), we would like to implement a captive hippo breeding program at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. But first, we need the space to house a male hippo. Fortunately, our new exhibit will be large enough to accommodate an entire hippo family!

Please note: Our Nile hippos, Zambezi (24,) and Kasai (17), are currently on an extended vacation to Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, MO. Our African penguin flock has also moved to another AZA-accredited facility. They will be gone while a new exhibit is built for them with funds raised from the Making Waves capital campaign.


African penguins (also known as black-footed penguins) are quite zippy in the water. They can swim an average of 4 mph and can stay underwater for up to two minutes, making them a crowd favorite at the Zoo. Unlike their cold climate cousins, they are native to the warm, rocky coasts of South Africa. The species has recently been added to the endangered species list due to loss of habitat – the same coasts they inhabit are becoming inundated by tourists. It’s important that zoos are able to successfully breed African penguins to help ensure species survival and to bring awareness to their plight in the wild.

We believe our efforts to breed this endangered species will improve when their new exhibit is completed. Better indoor ventilation, as well as their own outdoor beach, will give newborn chicks a better chance of survival. Our original penguin colony left for the New York Aquarium in April, but a new colony will arrive in time for the exhibit’s opening.

and more!

Joining our hippos and penguins in their new exhibit will be lemurs (on their own island!), warthogs, and lots of opportunities to get up-close-and-personal with a number of amazing species. It will truly be a mixed species experience for our guests.



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View into the hippo exhibit architectural rendering image
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s aquatics exhibit was nearly 60 years old and no longer met the needs of our hippos and penguins, or our growing visitor base. Our newly designed exhibit will greatly expand their space, giving our penguins their very own South African beach, and our hippos their own Nile valley waterway. It will also allow us to mix it up a bit by introducing some new species to the Zoo, such as saddle-billed storks and African gazelle. Set in the hippos’ waterway will be an island occupied by one of the most intriguing animals in the primate kingdom – lemurs! There will be multiple ways to view all the animals, and plenty of opportunities for memorable experiences.

Penguins outdoor beach architectural rendering image
A very hip hippo exhibit – Did you know that only about 87 hippos are on exhibit across the country right now? Not many zoos exhibit them, which makes Cheyenne Mountain Zoo pretty unique. There is a need for captive hippo breeding programs, and our new exhibit will give us the space to acquire a male hippo and begin a breeding program right here in Colorado Springs. We also want to be better water stewards, so we’re installing a water recycling system in the new exhibit that will drastically reduce our current use of 60,000 gallons of water per day to maintain healthy environments for our animals.
A plush penguin pad – The African penguin has recently been placed on the endangered species list, which makes it more important than ever that we draw attention to this amazing species and the perils it faces in the wild. We also want to boost successful breeding of our flock. The new penguin exhibit will allow us to do that by giving them improved ventilation in their indoor space, as well as their own rocky, outdoor beach to explore during warmer months. Guests can get ready for an entirely new experience – waddling side-by-side with the flock in the exhibit’s new “free roam” area.

Up-close and experiential – Our new aquatics exhibit is designed for maximum interaction and fun, especially for our younger visitors. Crossing the suspension bridge (and peering at hippos below) will lead children to a nature play area that encourages discovery and imagination.

3D OVERVIEW: Site Plan

Water's Edge: Africa exhibit 3D site plan of hippos and penguins exhibit architectural rendering image


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