Your Detroit Zoo
The mission of the Detroit Zoological Society 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.
The Detroit Zoo has 125 acres of naturalistic habitats for more than 2,000 animals from aardvarks to zebras and features award-winning attractions such as the National Amphibian Conservation Center, Great Apes of Harambee and Arctic Ring of Life. The Zoo’s newest attraction is the spectacular Polk Penguin Conservation Center, the largest facility for penguins in the world.
Zoo Board and Staff
Ron L. Kagan, 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
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Lloyd A. Semple, Chair
Gail L. Warden, Chair Emeritus
Stephen R. Polk, Vice Chair
John G. Sznewajs, Treasurer
Thomas J. Lewand
Denise J. Lewis
Richard B. Platt
Robert G. Riney
Marian M. Roberge
Matthew S. Ahearn
N. Charles Anderson
Alisha R. Bell
Thomas C. Buhl
Shery L. Cotton
Mary Kay Crain
Matthew P. Cullen
Marvin C. Daitch
Dr. Beth Daly
David E. Duprey
Matthew B. Elliott
Charles Ellis (Bishop)
Burton D. Farbman
Marjorie M. Furman
Dr. Terry S. Harvill
Marina A. Houghton
George G. Johnson
Alan J. Kaufman
Virinder K. Moudgil
Hon. Julie A. Nicholson
Anmar K. Sarafa
Lawrence M. Scott
Shirley R. Stancato
Joel D. Tauber
Jeffrey K. Willemain
Gail Warden, Chair
Lynn Ford Alandt
Anthony F. Earley, Jr.
Ruth R. Glancy
Michael W. Jamieson
Carolyn Ewald Kratzet
Robert P. Roselle
Lydia G. Smith
Gerald E. Warren
Marilyn J. Way
- 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 1.6 million visitors annually
- 62,000 member households
- Home to more than 2,000 animals of 245 species
- 245 employees including full- and part-time
- More than 1,100 volunteers, docents and gardeners who donate more than 100,000 hours of service each year
- Mission of Celebrating and Saving Wildlife
- Accredited by the Association of Zoos and 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.
- Zoo History
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 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.
- 2016 – Polk Penguin Conservation Center opens.
- 2016 – Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county voters renew property tax millage for 10 years.