- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A Springfield zoo is saying goodbye to a hippo that’s been the centerpiece of the park for more than 30 years.

The Dickerson Park Zoo celebrated Henry the hippo’s move to the Cincinnati Zoo this weekend with opportunities for guests to feed the animal, the Springfield News-Leader (https://sgfnow.co/1Rkjq9B ) reported. He will remain at the Springfield zoo until his move to Ohio in mid-June.

Erin Hitsman, Dickerson Park Zoo’s event coordinator, said at the goodbye celebration Saturday afternoon that it’s a bittersweet farewell.

“People saw him as kids, and they’re bringing their kids to see him,” Hitsman said.

Henry will reside in a new, $8 million exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo with two female hippos. Hitsman said the exhibit’s construction cost is more than twice the Springfield zoo’s yearly operating budget.

Hitsman said the new exhibit will be a much better habitat for the hippo. It’ll include an underwater facility, which the Springfield zoo doesn’t have.

Moving the hippo has been a possibility in the past, Hitsman said. But she noted that zoos often aren’t interested in male hippos because it can be difficult to integrate them into social cultures that are already established.

For now, Hitsman said the challenge is explaining to young visitors why a centerpiece of the zoo has to depart.

“It’s really hard to explain to a 3-year-old.”


Information from: Springfield News-Leader, https://www.news-leader.com



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