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Detroit Zoological Society

The mission of the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) is to:

  • Demonstrate extraordinary leadership in conservation, animal welfare, education and environmental sustainability.
  • Inspire our diverse community with engaging, meaningful, memorable experiences and equitable opportunities that encourage appreciation and stewardship of nature.
  • Celebrate and value biodiversity and human diversity, while ensuring that our audience, staff and volunteers reflect the multicultural fabric that is the strength of our community.
  • Provide innovative facilities and programs that contribute to the region’s economic vitality.
  • Demonstrate organizational excellence consistent with a commitment to outstanding service, as well as progressive and responsible resource management.

  • DZS Board and Staff



    • Dr. Hayley W. Murphy, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer
    • Scott Carter, Chief Life Sciences Officer
    • Gerry VanAcker, Chief Operating Officer
    • Diane Miller, Chief Program Officer
    • Jane Alessandrini, Chief Development Officer
    • Robert Schumaker, Chief Financial Officer


    Executive Committee

    • Anthony F. Earley, Jr., Chair
    • Stephen R. Polk, Vice Chair
    • Robert G. Riney, Vice Chair
    • John G. Sznewajs, Treasurer
    • Lloyd A. Semple,  Chair Emeritus
    • Dr. William A. Conway, M.D.
    • Cynthia Ford
    • Alan Kalter
    • Bonnie Larson
    • Thomas J. Lewand
    • Denise J. Lewis
    • Shawn Patterson
    • Richard B. Platt
    • Sean Werdlow
    • Lawrence A. Wolfe


    • Anthony Adams
    • Ismael Ahmed
    • N. Charles Anderson
    • Diane Banks
    • Alisha R. Bell
    • Andrew Blake
    • Thomas C. Buhl
    • Sharima Bulchak
    • Clark Bunting
    • Beth Chappell
    • Matthew P. Cullen
    • Marvin C. Daitch
    • Dr. Beth Daly
    • David E. Duprey
    • Charles Ellis (Bishop)
    • John Erb
    • Kristy Fercho
    • Allan Gilmour
    Directors cont.

    • Jennifer M. Grieco
    • Dr. Terry S. Harvill
    • Rejji Hayes
    • Paul Huxley
    • Hassan Jaber
    • PJ Jenkins, Jr.
    • Alan J. Kaufman
    • Brandon Kolo
    • Dawn Lee-Cotton
    • Lisa Lis
    • Dr. Isaiah McKinnon
    • Candice S. Miller
    • Dr. Virinder Moudgil
    • Sandra Pierce
    • Stuart Robbins
    • James Rosenthal
    • Rick Ruffner
    • Anmar Sarafa
    • Dr. James Sawyer
    • Shirley R. Stancato
    • James Tate
    • Joel D. Tauber
    • Manny Torgow
    • Rachel Vitti
    • Gail L. Warden

    Advisory Council

    • Lloyd A. Semple, Chairperson
    • Lynn Ford Alandt
    • Sean Cotton
    • Mary Kay Crain
    • Leslie Devereaux
    • Edsel B. Ford II
    • Jonathan Holtzman
    • Richard Manoogian
    • Edward Mardigian
    • Gail L. Warden
    • Marilyn J. Way
    • Jeffrey K. Willemain
  • DZS Facts

    Detroit Zoological Society

    • Nonprofit organization that operates the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center
    • Statement of purpose: Celebrating and Saving Wildlife and Wild Places
    • Renowned leader in wildlife conservation, animal welfare, environmental sustainability and humane education
    • 261 full-time and 30 part-time employees
    • 1,100 volunteers
    • 52,000 member households

    Detroit Zoo

    • Situated on 125 acres with many naturalistic habitats
    • Major exhibits include the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, Arctic Ring of Life, Australian Outback Adventure, Great Apes of Harambee, National Amphibian Conservation Center, Holden Reptile Conservation Center and Butterfly Garden
    • Click here for current operating hours
    • Click here for admission prices
    • Largest paid family attraction in Michigan with more than 1.3 million visitors annually
    • Home to more than 2,000 animals of 237 species
    • Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums

    Belle Isle Nature Center

    • Situated on approximately 6 acres of Michigan’s forested wetland
    • Click here for current operating hours
    • Focuses on Michigan wildlife, flora and fauna
    • Offers family nature programs and education programs for schools and community groups
    • Admission to the Nature Center is free; however, a State of Michigan Recreation Passport is required for all vehicles to enter Belle Isle.

    Great Lakes Center for Nature

    • Plans underway for 30,000-square-foot waterfront facility in Macomb County dedicated to water and wildlife of the Great Lakes.
  • DZS History

    Part 1 – The Detroit Zoo’s Early Years

    Part 2 – From the Roosevelt Administration Era (1932) to Now

  • DZS Timeline

    Timeline of the Detroit Zoological Society

    • 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.
    • 2005Elephants 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 Center.
    • 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.
    • 2009 – Center for Zoo and Aquarium Animal Welfare and Ethics (CZAAWE) is established.
    • 2012 – Cotton Family Wetlands and Boardwalk opens.
    • 2012 – Jane and Frank Warchol Beaver Habitat opens.
    • 2012 – Mr. Alan Kalter and Dr. Chris Lezotte made a generous gift to establish the Kalter/Lezotte Fund for Wildlife Rescue.
    • 2015 – Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness opens.
    • 2015 – Crain’s Detroit Business names Detroit Zoological Society Best-Managed Nonprofit.
    • 2015 – Detroit Zoological Society wins AZA Green Award and International Conservation Award.
    • 2016 – Polk Penguin Conservation Center opens.
    • 2016 – Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county voters renew property tax millage for 10 years.
    • 2017 – Polk Penguin Conservation Center receives AZA National Exhibit Award.
    • 2018 – Detroit Zoo celebrates 90th anniversary.
    • 2018 – Detroit Zoological Society wins AZA Education Award for our Celebrate Urban Backyards Program.
    • 2018 – Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest opens.
    • 2019 – Devereaux Tiger Forest opens.
    • 2020 – Detroit Zoological Society wins WAZA Environmental Sustainability Award.
  • DZS Diversity Statement

    Just as we value and celebrate biodiversity, the Detroit Zoological Society celebrates the diversity of our human community. We are committed to ensuring that our programs and facilities are fully accessible to our diverse communities and audiences and that our staff and volunteers reflect the multicultural fabric that is the strength of southeast Michigan.