Four-month-old Nile hippo calf, Omo, is growing and learning every day. Although he’s still nursing to get all of the nutrients he needs, he has started to explore solid foods. Because his parents, Zambezi and Biko, and his aunt, Kasai, love to smash watermelons, we couldn’t resist seeing if Omo would be interested in this little melon, sized perfectly for our little hippo.

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Omo is four months old today! He doesn’t quite have the teeth for chewing solid foods, but he sure does try! Omo is working on mastering mastication while his mom, Zambezi, patiently eats her dinner next to him. He still has a bit of work to do, but one day, we know he’ll be a chewing champ!

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has earned an incredibly rare clean report of inspection and its seventh consecutive five-year accreditation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). In nearly 50 years of accreditations, CMZoo is only the fourth organization to earn a ‘clean’ report, which means there wasn’t a single major or minor concern reported.

Today, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers joined Cheyenne Mountain Zoo President and CEO, Bob Chastain, to recognize the Zoo’s staff. Watch highlights from the recognition, here:

“The Greek philosopher, Aristotle, said, ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit,’” said Dan Ashe, AZA president and CEO. “Congratulations to the entire team at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. AZA accreditation is the world’s most rigorous and comprehensive standard for a modern zoo or aquarium. Achieving a completely clean accreditation inspection is extremely rare and reflects a constant commitment and dedication to excellence.”

In the zoo and aquarium profession, the AZA accreditation is considered the gold standard. There are approximately 2,800 animal exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but only 242 are accredited by the AZA.

To maintain accreditation with the AZA, organizations must apply and be inspected every five years. CMZoo has been consistently accredited since 1983. The accreditation process includes a lengthy application and a multi-day on-site inspection by the Accreditation Commission, a team of accomplished zoo and aquarium professionals. The Accreditation Commission inspected 342 standards during their on-site review of the Zoo.

“This is one of those milestones that people outside of the Zoo profession may not realize is a huge deal,” said Bob Chastain, CMZoo president and CEO. “Our organization is led by a series of guiding sentiments, which we call our ‘We Believe’ statements. We believe our animals deserve the best home we can provide. We believe we can make the world a better place, and that the work we do and the way we treat people matters. We believe in holding ourselves to standards that put us above reproach. We believe people are the key to the future of wildlife and wild places. We believe every guest’s experience, from gate to gate, is crucial to our success. This accreditation wasn’t earned overnight. Six previous AZA accreditations and our dedicated staff have led us to this really amazing achievement.

“Another of our ‘We Believe’ statements is, ‘We value laughter as good medicine,’” said Chastain. “To put this clean accreditation into perspective, when I asked Dan Ashe, AZA president and CEO, for his comments about how rare this is, he joked, ‘A completely clean inspection report is so unusual, and so unlikely, it brings one word to mind — bribery!’ All kidding aside, this is rare, and we are so proud to achieve this high level of accreditation that has set a new standard of excellence for us.”

During accreditation inspections and through continuous monitoring between inspections, AZA’s rigorous, scientifically based and publicly-available standards examine the zoo or aquarium’s entire operation, including animal welfare, veterinary care, conservation, education, guest services, physical facilities, safety, staffing, finance, master and strategic planning, and governing body.

“Receiving a clean accreditation report is extremely rare, and it’s something Cheyenne Mountain Zoo staff, members and guests should take great pride in,” said Denny Lewis, AZA senior vice president of Accreditation Programs. “For nearly 25 years, I have been a part of the process to inspect about 250 zoos and aquariums in five-year rotations, and a clean report is very impressive – a rare gem. AZA first began accrediting zoos and aquariums in 1974. Since then, this is only the fourth completely clean inspection. It speaks to the high level of animal care and welfare, conservation programming, education and guest experiences that Cheyenne Mountain Zoo consistently provides.”

About Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and 12 other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit

About Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Cheyenne Mountain Zoological Society was founded in 1926. Today, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, America’s mountain Zoo, offers comprehensive education programs, exciting conservation efforts and truly fantastic animal experiences. In 2021, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was voted #4 Best Zoo in North America and CMZoo’s Rocky Mountain Wild was named #3 Best Zoo Exhibit in North America by USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. It is Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s goal to help guests fall in love with animals and nature, and take action to protect them. Of the 242 zoos and aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is one of just a few operating without tax support. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo depends on admissions, membership dues, special event attendance and donations for funding.

As Omo grows bigger by the day, so does his playfulness! Lately, our 3-month-old hippo has been spending his days practicing his porpoising, a behavior that hippos can exhibit to express excitement and playfulness. Instead of pushing off slowly from the bottom of the pool, like they usually do to resurface, porpoising hippos leap from the bottom, causing them to erupt from the water and make a big splash. Omo has a little way to go with his splashes, but we’re here to share his adorable efforts.

Are you busy preparing your own epic feast this Thanksgiving? CMZoo’s commissary team prepares hundreds of meals every day for the animals in our care. Learn more about what goes into feeding and enriching our animals from our commissary manager, Chelsea!

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CMZoo’s four Nile hippos, Zambezi, Omo, Biko and Kasai, have had a busy summer and fall! If you’ve been following our newsletter updates and social media channels, you know that our three-month-old hippo, Omo, and his mom, Zambezi, have been bonding well and exploring all of the hippo spaces in Water’s Edge: Africa, while Omo grows like a weed. Zambezi’s sister, Kasai, and Omo’s dad, Biko, have also been staying busy meeting other Water’s Edge: Africa residents, participating in training and enrichment, and exploring their hippo home’s various yards and pools. Get the latest on our hippos with Water’s Edge: Africa keeper, Al, in this quick video update.

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It’s been a year since our mountain lions moved in together, so join us for an update with Adira, Sitka and Koda! We’ll show you around their three yards and take a little hike up above their exhibit to get up-close with the three young lions. Rocky Mountain Wild Lead Keeper, Courtney, tells us how to identify each lion, why they came to live at the Zoo, and a little about their unique behaviors and preferences. Then, we’ll watch how they respond to their festive pumpkin enrichment.

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Join us for an update on one-year-old Alaska moose, Atka! Fall is a busy time for a moose, because they finish growing their antlers and enter ‘rut,’ which is breeding season in the wild. At the Zoo, we mimic the wild environment by giving Atka lots of items to spar with. Male moose, like Atka, would spar with other males for territory or female attention in the wild. Once breeding season is over, wild moose tend to go their separate ways, so Atka doesn’t share his space with other moose at the Zoo.

If you’ve missed our #AtkaAntlerUpdates this year, you might be wondering why he’s sporting a one-sided look this year. In June, young Atka knocked one of his antlers off, so his 2021 antlers are quite unique looking. In the next few months, Atka will shed his first set of antlers. Next spring, he’ll start growing a new set, and that cycle will continue throughout his life. Learn more at Atka and see his antler updates on his playlist, here:

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September was a big month for our quickly growing Nile hippo calf. He got a name, explored new spaces and tried new foods. One thing didn’t change for young Omo, though: his love for naps.

Join Water’s Edge: Africa keeper, Grace, for an update on our two-month-old calf, and hear about how Omo’s following in mom’s footsteps literally and figuratively. Zambezi is a confident hippo, and her little boy is showing signs he’ll be just the same!

Check out Omo’s complete video playlist, here:

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Today is #WorldGorillaDay! Here to help us celebrate are Primate World keeper, Carrie, and our Western lowland gorilla troop: 29-year-old Kwisha, 45-year-old Roxie, 40-year-old Juju, 28-year-old Asha and our silverback, 30-year-old Goma.

World Gorilla Day isn’t just about celebrating these incredible animals, but also about protecting them for years to come. Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered, and their numbers continue to decrease in the wild. In addition to disease and poaching, a threat they face in the wild is loss of habitat due to logging for agricultural use, human settlements and mining. Many of the west African lowland forests and swamps that these animals call home are also natural deposits of coltan, a mineral used in cell phones and other electronics. Due to the ever-increasing demand for cell phones across the world, the destruction of these gorillas’ habitats for mining purposes has unfortunately only increased.

There is, however, something we all can do to help! Coltan is recyclable, and by donating your old cell phones, you can help supply valuable coltan for future phone production. Here in the Primate World building, we have a new cell phone recycling collection bin. When guests visit, they can drop off their old and unused cell phones in the bin, and we will send them to Eco-Cell, an organization that recycles the phones, as well as tablets, smart watches, Bluetooth devices, GPS devices, e-readers, digital cameras, handheld gaming systems and their accessories.

Since installing the box in July of this year, we have collected 194 electronic devices, all of which will be sent to Eco-Cell to be recycled! If you have any old devices please consider bringing them to the Zoo on your next visit. We will be collecting phones in this bin in Primate World every day. Thanks again for celebrating World Gorilla Day with us, and for supporting Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, where every visit is conservation in action.