COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — There’s so much to explore and learn at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo’s newest exhibit: Water’s Edge Africa.
Zoo President and CEO Bob Chastain gave FOX21’s Abbie Burke a personal tour of some of his favorite ideas come to life.
Their first stop was a bronze hippo sculpture featuring a mom and a baby hippo.
“The baby hippo is what we’re really interested in,” said Chastain. “This exhibit was built so that we could have baby hippos, so until that day comes we have a sculpture here that will work out.”
The exhibit also features guinea pigs, penguins, warthogs and lemurs, as well as some fun play structures for kids of all ages to explore.
“One of the other features that we’re going to see here in just a second is a suspension bridge that literally goes across the hippo exhibit but we wanted to make it quite a challenge for people to get to,” said Chastain. “One of the things that we are realizing more and more about kids today is that they don’t get outside and play in the same way that they used to, so even though this is a play area, you’re not going to see any slides and you’re not going to see any swing sets.”
Chastain then demonstrated how kids can navigate from log to log through the structure and said in this area kids are encouraged to touch, climb and take risks.
“There’s a certain amount of risk if you’re going to play in an unstructured area and risk is really an important element for kids. You obviously don’t want them to get seriously hurt, but hitting and banging your shin a few times is not necessarily a bad learning lesson,” he said.
Chastain then showed off the suspension bridge he mentioned earlier, which not only offers a fun feature, but also a unique view of the hippos.
“One of the things the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo tries to do is give you lots of views,” Chastain said.
And those unique views don’t stop there. They are offered all over, even inside the restrooms!
“So one of the things that you’ll see here is we are in the men’s restroom and yet there’s a window to the penguin exhibit,” said Chastain.
He said the women’s restroom also has a window looking into the penguin exhibit.
Chastain then showed us the basement where the filtration system for the entire Water’s Edge exhibit is housed.
“This whole side of the basement is hippos and those one, two, three filters there, their job is to filter all of the heavy material out of the hippo exhibit,” he said.
“As you know hippos mostly eat grass and hay, and that mostly means that they poop a lot, and so that grass and hay comes into these dumpsters that then can go away and be composted.”
Back outside at the penguin exhibit, Chastain pointed out the area they call Boulder’s Beach, which features a surge of water about every two to three minutes.
“A little bit of that water gets filtered off and comes across the sidewalk so kids could have a little bit of that surge experience,” he said. “Then it goes across the sidewalk into a drain and gets recycled and used all over again.”
Chastain said the success of the entire project is due to teamwork, and he gave a lot of credit to all involved, from his team at the zoo to the construction crew at GE Johnson to the design architects and the community.
“For me what I am most proud of is when we envision any element of this and then I see people looking at it and talking about it, everything that we envision that I see people enjoy is my favorite part of the exhibit,” he said.