Keepers of Our Future, a Detroit Zoo History


Part 1 - The Zoo's Early Years

Part 2 - From the Rosevelt Administration Era (1932) to Now

 


Timeline of the Detroit Zoo

  • 1928 – Detroit Zoo opens to the public on August 1.  Habitats include bear dens, lion dens, bird house, elk yard, raccoon and wolverine habitats, African veldt and completely stocked lakes.
  • 1928 – Zoo closes on December 3 for the winter, having entertained 1.5 million visitors in its first four months.
  • 1930-32 – New animals and habitats are added, including elephants, rhinos, giraffes, bison, Baboon Rock, Prairie Dog Village, a farmyard and the first reptile habitat.
  • 1931 – Miniature railroad opens, donated by The Detroit News.
  • 1932 – First chimpanzee show debuts, starring the famous Jo Mendi.
  • 1933 – Zoo begins truck gardens to help alleviate Depression food shortages.
  • 1933-34 – Civil Works Administration and Federal Emergency Relief Administration provide funds and manpower to build hippopotamus house, beaver habitat and other animal habitats.
  • 1935-37 – The federal Work Projects Administration (WPA) builds animal hospital and administration building and provides major landscaping.
  • 1939 – Horace Rackham Memorial Fountain is dedicated.
  • 1940 – Paulina the elephant retires after 500,000 riders.
  • 1955 – Holden Amphitheater and Great Ape House open.
  • 1960 – Holden Museum of Living Reptiles opens.
  • 1962 – Regular TV broadcasts of “Sonny Eliot at the Zoo” begin.
  • 1968 – Penguinarium opens, the first zoo building in the world designed entirely for penguins; includes underwater viewing and continuous swim loop for the penguins.
  • 1969 – Detroit Zoo opens to the public year-round.  
  • 1977 – Bird House free-flight wing built with funding from Matilda R. Wilson.  Docent (volunteer teacher) program begins.
  • 1982 – Chimpanzee shows end as Zoo’s philosophy about animal management changes.
  • 1989 – Chimps of Harambee habitat opens.
  • 1993 – Dinosauria! exhibit debuts at Detroit Zoo.
  • 1994 – Mandrill habitat opens. Renovated giraffe house opens to the public after 32 years.
  • 1995 – Wildlife Interpretive Gallery opens, a renovation of the original bird house.
  • 1997 – Edward Mardigian, Sr. River Otter habitat and Gerry Rissman PlayVenture open.
  • 2000 – Amphibiville, home of the National Amphibian Conservation Center, opens in June.
  • 2001 – Wild Adventure Ride, the nation’s first zoo simulator, opens in May. Arctic Ring of Life, North America’s largest polar bear habitat, opens in October.
  • 2001 – Berman Academy for Humane Education is established.
  • 2002 – Detroit Zoo receives the 2002 AZA National Exhibit Award for Amphibiville.
  • 2004 – Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex is completed.
  • 2005 – Ford Education Center opens.
  • 2005 – Elephants Winky and Wanda are moved to the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary in California.
  • 2006 – Detroit Zoological Society assumes daily operations and financial management of Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Zoo.
  • 2006 – Australian Outback Adventure opens.
  • 2008 – Detroit Zoo celebrates 80th anniversary.
  • 2008 – Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county voters approve property tax millage to help support Detroit Zoo operations
  • 2012 – Cotton Family Wetlands and Boardwalk opens.
  • 2012 – Jane and Frank Warchol Beaver Habitat opens.
  • 2014 – Detroit Zoo breaks ground on Polk Penguin Conservation Center.
  • 2015 – Cotton Family Wolf Habitat to open in June.