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Zambezi River Hippo Camp.

During their recent accreditation review, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA) gave the Memphis Zoo very high marks, except for the badly outdated hippo exhibit. AZA requires that the hippo exhibit begin to be replaced by 2008 or the Zoo will lose the right to display hippos. The Memphis Zoo has a proud history of breeding and exhibiting hippos since 1920, but their current quarters are confined and with dump and fill pools, are far from ideal.

The hippos are a major attraction at the Zoo, and it would be unacceptable to lose them. The Memphis Zoo has raised $6 million toward this $8 million exhibit. The Zambezi River Hippo Camp will be located in the Zoo's African Forest area. The exhibit will celebrate the life and culture of Native Africans that live along the river. The exhibit will depict an African fishing village commonly found along the banks of the Zambezi. The exhibit will feature both land and underwater viewing opportunities for the hippos as well as Nile crocodiles. The design of the exhibit will create the illusion that the hippos and the crocodiles are swimming together. Additional animals in this exhibit will include okapi and African flamingos.

Zambezi River

The Bundu people of Zambia believe the Zambezi River has a spirit called Nyami Nyami. This spirit brings them water to grow crops and fish to eat, so they call the river "the river of life." The Zambezi River is Africa's fourth largest river. The Zambezi runs through six countries on its journey from central Africa to the Indian Ocean, 1,600 miles from its headwaters.

The climate along the river is considered tropical and the rainy season lasts from October through April. The river changes at times, going from a placid flow in sandy plains to annually flooded plains to a tumbling river of falls and rapids. The Zambezi benefits from protected status along much of its banks. Its power has carved the spectacular Victoria Falls (twice the size of Niagara Falls) and the zigzagging Batoka Gorge.

Hippopotamus

Technically, the hippopotamus is a terrestrial mammal. Because it spends so much of its life underwater, it has made many adaptations to an aquatic environment. Although once found as far north as the Nile delta, hippos today are commonly found in the lakes, rivers, and swamps of East and Central Africa.

Nile Crocodile

Nile crocodiles were once widely distributed over Africa, south of the Sahara, and on offshore islands. Their present range is smaller and they have become endangered because of habitat destruction and the value of their leather. They occupy a wide variety of freshwater habitats throughout Africa.

The Nile crocodile has changed very little in the last 65 million years. They swim with their powerful tails, but their hind feet are webbed and can be used to submerge quickly. Adult Nile crocodiles can weigh up to 2,200 pounds and grow to be 21 feet long.

Okapi Ampulu Research Station

The okapi is the only known living relative of the giraffe. An okapi's velvet-like coat is generally dark chestnut brown or dark red to almost purple in color, with a distinctive pattern of horizontal stripes, much like those of a zebra, on the upper legs. Like a giraffe, the okapi has a very long tongue that can reach out and pull leaves off forest trees and can groom its ears.

The rain forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the okapi's main habitat, where this animal mostly roams alone and is protected by the government. The okapi still faces threats from commercial poaching and habitat loss due to human settlement.

The exhibit will be designed to represent a conservation research station located in an African forest. The exhibit will include an African Treetop Classroom overlooking the Okapi Ampulu Research Station.

African Flamingo

As the exhibit journeys down the Zambezi, the visitor will encounter African flamingos migrating along the tidal flats. The African flamingo is one of five species of flamingos, long thought to be one of the most ancient of bird families. Standing 30 to 40 inches tall, the African flamingo is the smallest of the species. Their plumage is deep pink or red, and their deep-keeled bill is dark red with a black tip.

The African flamingo ranges across Africa. They are sometimes present in vast numbers, up to a million. Little is known about this bird. Not even their numbers are certain, though it is thought that the population has dropped by at least 20.0 percent in the past 15 years and now stands at between two and four million.
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Publication:Business Perspectives
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Sep 22, 2004
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