The Dallas Zoo has been without a hippopotamus since 2001, when its resident hippo, Papa, passed away. But that is soon to change thanks to a generous gift from the co-owner and president of the investment firm Highland Capital Management.
James Dondero contributed one million dollars to the development of a new hippo outpost at the zoo, which will cost an estimated $14 million. Much of that money will come from other donations from the private sector. Dondero’s and Highland’s donation will go to the construction of the Highland Capital Lodge, which can host special events at the hippo outpost.
The Dallas Zoo’s old hippo habitat was built in 1959, and the hippos had to share it with other animals like elephants and giraffes. But by 2010, the enclosure had become dilapidated and was razed to make way for a picnic area in 2012. The Dallas Zoo already has two hippos that will take residence in the new exhibit when it is completed.
James Dondero co-founded Highland Capital Management in 1993. Prior to that, he served as the Chief Investment Officer of GIC Subsidiary, which ultimately achieved $2 billion in assets. He also worked as a corporate bond analyst and portfolio manager at American Express. Dondero graduated from the University of Virginia with a double major in accounting and finance.
Under Dondero’s leadership, Highland Capital has become more active in philanthropic endeavors around the Dallas area. Dondero and his firm have donated millions to groups and programs like Uplift Education, the Perot Museum of Natural Science, and SMU’s Tower Scholars program. He has also hired a full time manager to oversee Highland’s charitable efforts.