Detroit Zoological Society

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

  • Demonstrate leadership in wildlife conservation and animal welfare.
  • Provide a broad audience with outstanding and unique educational opportunities that lead to the appreciation and stewardship of nature.
  • Inspire our community with engaging, meaningful and memorable experiences.
  • Provide innovative zoological facilities that contribute to the region’s economic vitality.
  • Demonstrate organizational excellence consistent with a commitment to outstanding service, progressive resource management and environmental leadership.

  • DZS Board and Staff

     

    KEY STAFF

    • Ron L. Kagan, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer
    • Scott Carter, Chief Life Sciences Officer
    • Gerry VanAcker, Chief Operating Officer
    • Jeffrey Evans, Chief Financial Officer
    • Diane Miller, Chief Program Officer
    • Jane Alessandrini, Chief Development Officer

    BOARD OF DIRECTORS

    Executive Committee

    • Lloyd A. Semple, Chair
    • Gail L. Warden, Chair Emeritus
    • Stephen R. Polk, Vice Chair
    • John G. Sznewajs, Treasurer
    • Larry Alexander
    • Dr. William Conway
    • Anthony F. Earley, Jr.
    • Cynthia Ford
    • Alan Kalter
    • Thomas J. Lewand
    • Denise J. Lewis
    • Lisa Lis
    • Shawn Patterson
    • Richard B. Platt
    • Robert G. Riney
    • Sean Werdlow

    Directors

    • Matthew S. Ahearn
    • Ismael Ahmed
    • N. Charles Anderson
    • Alisha R. Bell
    • Thomas C. Buhl
    • Beth Chappell
    • Shery L. Cotton
    • Mary Kay Crain
    • Matthew P. Cullen
    • Marvin C. Daitch
    • Dr. Beth Daly
    • Karen Dumas
    • David E. Duprey
    • Matthew B. Elliott
    • Charles Ellis (Bishop)
    • John Erb
    • Burton D. Farbman
    • Dr. Linda Gillum
    Directors cont.

    • Allan Gilmour
    • Dr. Terry S. Harvill
    • Jeff Hauswirth
    • Doreen Hermelin
    • Marina A. Houghton
    • Paul Huxley
    • Hassan Jaber
    • Hiram Jackson
    • George G. Johnson
    • Alan J. Kaufman
    • Bonnie Larson
    • Dawn Lee-Cotton
    • Victor Martin
    • Dr. Isaiah McKinnon
    • Candice Miller
    • Dr. Virinder K. Moudgil
    • Hon. Julie A. Nicholson
    • Stuart Robbins
    • James Rosenthal
    • Melissa Roy
    • Rick Ruffner
    • Anmar K. Sarafa
    • Dr. James Sawyer
    • Lawrence M. Scott
    • Grace Shore
    • Andre Spivey
    • Shirley R. Stancato
    • James Tate
    • Joel D. Tauber
    • Rachel Vitti
    • Larry Wolfe

    Advisory Council

    • Gail Warden, Chair
    • Lynn Ford Alandt
    • Nasser Beydoun
    • Kay Cowger
    • Dr. Marjorie Furman (Fisher)
    • Ruth R. Glancy
    • Michael W. Jamieson
    • Carolyn Ewald Kratzet
    • Robert P. Roselle
    • Lydia G. Smith
    • Gerald E. Warren
    • Marilyn J. Way
  • DZS Facts

    Detroit Zoological Society

    • Nonprofit organization that operates the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Center
    • State of purpose: Celebrating and Saving Wildlife
    • Renowned leader in wildlife conservation, animal welfare, environmental sustainability and humane education
    • 245 full- and part-time employees
    • 1,100 volunteers
    • 57,000 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 1.5 million visitors annually
    • Home to more than 2,000 animals of 230 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.
  • 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.
    • 2012 – Cotton Family Wetlands and Boardwalk opens.
    • 2012 – Jane and Frank Warchol Beaver Habitat opens.
    • 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.