Dickerson Park Zoo: Lions, Giraffes … And A Hippo Named Henry

Dickerson Park Zoo: Lions, Giraffes … And A Hippo Named Henry

Perhaps the most famous resident of Springfield’s Dickerson Park Zoo doesn’t live there anymore. But a plaque remembers Henry the hippo, who was the father of internet sensation and Cincinnati Zoo favorite Fiona, the hippo baby born tiny at 29 pounds and premature in June 2017.

Henry the hippo is no doubt the most famous animal ever to live at the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Mo. He sired Cincinnati Zoo sensation Fiona. (Courtesy Photo/Cincinnati Zoo)

The plaque, which is located in front of the hippo yard, reads: “The world’s most handsome hippo. Father of Fiona. Loved by our community for more than 30 years.” Born Aug. 29, 1981, Henry died Oct. 31, 2017, after siring Fiona with mate Bibi.

“We had so much response when Henry died, people asking if we were going to do something,” zoo spokeswoman Joey Powell says. “We did a celebration of life for him and people gave donations. That is a gift from our community in honor of Henry.”

The zoo, which has its roots in a private facility founded in 1890, cares for 500 animals, says Powell, “from tiny sugar gliders to magnificent Asian elephants” spread across habitats representing South America, Australia, North America, Tropical Asia, Africa and the Diversity of Life building, which houses reptiles and amphibians.

While Henry might be best known nationally, Powell says every guest of the zoo has favorites to visit.

“The big cats — especially tigers and lions — are extremely popular,” she says. “Although feared by many, the snakes are also a must-see for a large portion of our guests. [But] the giraffe feeding deck is by far the most popular experience.”

Dickerson Park Zoo receives 420 pounds of meat a week for its carnivore residents. (Courtesy Photo/DPZ)

Asked about what it’s like on the other side of the enclosure, Powell says the primates definitely enjoy interaction with people — “Scotty the black and white colobus monkey likes to sit at the window with guests — but “Blue the ostrich is quite a showman as well [and] Shetani the female lion will zero in on guests — especially children” while her mate, Ade, naps. Lions, she says, sleep more than 20 hours a day.

Dickerson Park Zoo receives 420 pounds of meat a week for its carnivore residents. (Courtesy Photo/DPZ)

Powell says visitors often stay all morning or all afternoon, stopping for snacks or lunch at the Outback Cafe, taking a ride on the Titus Express — a miniature train ride very popular with kids — getting up close at the petting zoo and, in the summer, cooling off at Jumping Jewels splash pad. The suggested walking route is 1.2 miles, and Powell admits there are hills — “we are in the Ozarks — but also lots of nice shade trees. Of the 70 acres available for development, 45 are in use, leaving 25 acres for future exhibit development, guest services and support.

“Morning is a good time to visit, but it really does depend on the animal,” Powell adds. “Otters don’t care if it’s 10 or 100 degrees.”


Dickerson Park Zoo

WHEN — 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day

WHERE — 1401 W. Norton Road in Springfield, Mo.

COST — $10 children, $15 adults, $12 ages 60 & older

INFO — 417-864-1800, dickersonparkzoo.org

Categories: Family Friendly