Polar bears frolicking in a glass tunnel surrounded by 300,000 gallons of crystal-clear water; kangaroos bouncing about in a simulated Australian Outback; or hundreds of amphibians living in the world’s only amphibian conservation center–a place the Wall Street Journal described as “Disneyland for toads.” These are some of the experiences visitors can enjoy at the Detroit Zoo.
Celebrating its eightieth anniversary this year, the 125-acre Detroit Zoo is located in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak and draws one million visitors annually. Special events are planned to celebrate this milestone in August.
When established, it was the one of the first zoological parks in the nation to have bar-free animal exhibit areas. Over the years, it has maintained the same location, while preserving some of its architecturally significant buildings and original exhibits.
Visitors will experience a free-flight aviary, featuring exotic hummingbirds and butterflies; eighteen-foot-tall giraffes against a backdrop of ancient Egypt; two 4,000-pound white rhinoceroses hanging out together; a Kenyan native and a former safari guide who roams the African Veldt exhibit area telling children African tales. Add to that bald eagles, camels, prairie dogs, trumpeter swans and even warthogs.
Meanwhile, parents can feel good about the zoo’s mission today. According to Ron Kagen, director of the Detroit Zoological Society, which owns the Detroit Zoo, “Years ago, [zoos] were just places of entertainment. Now, they’re wonderful sanctuaries for animals. For all of us, the challenge is to make a visit to the zoo something that is wonderfully enriching and healthy for people as well as animals.”
For a visual tour of the Detroit Zoo check out this slideshow from the Detroit Zoo flickr pool.
The Detroit Zoo is one of a many great Michigan attractions featured in Michigan History magazine. For information call (800) 366-3703 or visit www.michiganhistorymagazine.com.