Archive: Detroit Zoo Smashes All-Time Attendance Record

Penguins, holiday lights, weather among contributing factors

January 4, 2017

ROYAL OAK, Mich., 

The Detroit Zoo smashed its all-time attendance record in 2016, attracting 1,698,053 visitors and exceeding its projected goal of 1.5 million. This marks the 11th consecutive year the Zoo’s attendance has exceeded one million.

Guests flocked from around the globe to see the Polk Penguin Conservation Center – the largest facility in the world for penguins – which opened in April. The 33,000-square-foot facility features a 326,000-gallon, 25-foot-deep aquatic area where visitors can watch as more than 80 penguins of four species explore their habitat. More than a million visitors explored the new penguin center in its first six months of operation.

Wild Lights – the Detroit Zoo’s annual holiday light display presented by Bank of America – drew a record 152,539 guests, contributing to the year’s robust attendance.

“The highly anticipated opening of the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, coupled with great weather for most of the year, an expanded Wild Lights display and continued improvements in operations and facilities are all contributing factors to our record-breaking numbers,” said Ron Kagan, Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) executive director and CEO. “We thank the community for another fantastic year and look forward to providing even more outstanding experiences in 2017.”

The Detroit Zoo is open all winter, and many animals become more active in colder weather – including gray wolves, wolverines, bison, Japanese macaques, tigers, camels, polar bears, arctic foxes and red pandas. The Zoo’s new Winter Rink is open through the end of February for guests ages 4 and older. The cost to rent skates and take a spin on the rink is $7 for a 25-minute session; for those who bring their own skates, the cost is $3.

The Detroit Zoo recently announced two new construction projects that will be underway in the new year – the renovation and expansion of the giraffe habitat, thanks to a $1 million gift from Cynthia and Edsel Ford, and the renovation and expansion of the tiger habitat, made possible in part by a $1 million gift from the Richard C. Devereaux Foundation.

Several new events are planned for 2017, joining returning favorites such as Bunnyville, Zoo Boo and Wild Lights. In March, the Detroit Zoo will host its inaugural Conservation Gala, a 21-and-older black-tie affair that will highlight the DZS’s world-renowned conservation efforts to save species across the globe. A family-friendly bicycle safari in June will allow people to peddle past polar bears and prairie dogs as they experience the Zoo like never before. And a 21-and-older event in August will feature food and beverage pairings themed around the native lands of animals throughout the Zoo.