The Horace Rackham Memorial Fountain by Corrado Parducci
|Date opened||1883; August 1, 1928|
|Location||Royal Oak, Michigan, United States|
|Land area||125 acres (51 ha)|
|Number of animals||3,300+|
|Number of species||280|
|Annual visitors||1,217,200 (2011)|
Detroit Zoological Park
|Location||8450 W. Ten Mile Rd., Huntington Woods/Royal Oak, Michigan|
|Architectural style||Other, Zoo|
|NRHP Reference #||90001226|
|Added to NRHP||August 24, 1990|
The Detroit Zoo is located about 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the Detroit city limits at the road of Woodward Avenue, 10 Mile Road, and Interstate 696 in Royal Oak and Huntington Woods, Michigan, United States. The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS), a non-profit organization, operates both the Detroit Zoo and the Belle Isle Nature Zoo, located in the city of Detroit. The DZS is responsible for the care and feeding of more than 3,300 animals representing 280 species.
The first Detroit Zoo opened in 1883 on Michigan and Trumbull Avenues, across from the then site of Tiger Stadium. A circus had arrived in town, only to go broke financially. Luther Beecher, a leading Detroit citizen and capitalist, financed the purchase of the circus animals and erected a building for their display called the Detroit Zoological Garden. The zoo closed the following year and the building converted into a horse auction.
The Detroit Zoological Society was founded in 1911, but the zoo's official opening did not occur until August 1, 1928. At the opening ceremony, acting Mayor John C. Nagel was to speak to the gathered crowd. Arriving late, Nagel parked his car behind the bear dens and as he came rushing around the front, Morris, a polar bear, leaped from his moat and stood directly in front of Nagel. Unaware how precarious his situation was, Nagel stuck out his hand and walked toward the polar bear joking, "He's the reception committee." The keepers rushed the bear and forced him back into the moat, leaving the mayor uninjured.
By 1930, the Bear Dens and Sheep Rock had been added, followed shortly by the Bird House. Next to be constructed were the Elk Exhibit, the Baboon Rock, and Primate and Reptile houses. The Detroit Zoo was the first zoo in America with cage-less exhibits.
The onset of the Great Depression brought to a halt additional major projects, but expansion resumed in the 1940s and has periodically continued since then. During the depression, one of the more popular attractions was Jo Mendi, a four-year-old chimpanzee purchased by the zoo director with his own funds. A veteran of Broadway and motion pictures, the chimp performed an act for the audience. As one press account stated, "he enjoys every minute of the act...He counts his fingers, dresses, laces his shoes, straps up his overalls; pours tea and drinks it; eats with a spoon, dances and waves farewell to his admirers." When the chimp fell ill in late 1932 after eating a penny, surgeons from area hospitals came to check him out. During his recovery, visitors brought toys, peanuts and more than $500 worth of flowers, along with several thousands cards and letters. Jo died in 1934 from hoof and mouth disease.
In 1939, sculptor Corrado Parducci created the Horace Rackham Memorial Fountain, popularly known as "the Bear Fountain." The memorial was one of four major donations made by Mary Rackham in the memory of her late husband Horace, the other three being college buildings named after him in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan. From the 1950s through the early 1970s, local weatherman Sonny Eliot hosted a television program, At the Zoo, that was shown on Saturdays on television station WDIV.
Until 1982, trained chimpanzees performed for visitors, but the act was discontinued at the insistence of animal rights activists. Also in 1982, the zoo began to charge an admission fee for the first time.
The Detroit Zoological Society
The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) is a non-profit organization that operates the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Zoo. Its $30 million annual budget is supported by earned revenue, philanthropic support, and a tri-county (Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne) millage. The organization has 210 full and part-time employees, more than 51,000 member households, and more than 1,100 volunteers.
Delivering on its mission of “Celebrating and Saving Wildlife”, the DZS is a leader in animal conservation and welfare. In collaboration with the DNR and USFWS, the DZS continues to release Zoo-reared federally endangered Karner blue butterflies in their natural habitats in Michigan with the goal of reestablishing self-sustaining populations. Each summer, DZS bird keepers assist with conservation efforts in northern Michigan for the federally endangered Great Lakes piping plover by artificially incubating abandoned piping plover eggs. Most recently, the DZS, in collaboration with the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, established of a common tern nesting site on Belle Isle.
The Detroit Zoological Society is frequently asked to help with the rescue of exotic animals from private owners, pseudo-sanctuaries, roadside zoos, and circuses. Among the DZS’s rescues are more than 1,000 exotic animals confiscated from an animal wholesaler in Texas, a polar bear that was confiscated from a circus in Puerto Rico, a lioness that was used to guard a crack house, and retired racehorses. In addition, the Detroit Zoological Society and Michigan Humane Society, in collaboration with dozens of local animal welfare organizations, host Meet Your Best Friend at the Zoo, the nation’s largest offsite companion animal adoption program. Since the event’s inception in 1993, more than 17,000 dogs, cats, and rabbits have been placed into new homes at the spring and fall events.
The Center for Zoo Animal Welfare (CZAW) was created in 2009 as a resource center for captive exotic animal welfare knowledge and best practices. It provides a much-needed forum for exotic animal welfare policy discussion/debate and recognizes captive exotic animal welfare initiatives through awards.
The DZS offers education programs year-round for kids, families, youth and scouting groups, classrooms, teachers, and homeschoolers, serving more than 35,000 students annually through education programs and approximately 120,000 more through field trips. In addition, the DZS raises over $170,000 annually to help Peruvian village schools through the Adopt-A-School program. The Berman Academy for Humane Education offers a broad range of unique and engaging programs that help people help animals. The Academy utilizes a variety of teaching strategies – from traditional instruction to storytelling, role-playing, theater, and virtual technology – to educate audiences about the need to treat other living creatures with empathy, respect, and gentleness.
The Detroit Zoo is one of Michigan’s largest family attractions, hosting more than 1.1 million visitors annually. Situated on 125 acres of naturalistic exhibits, it provides a natural habitat for more than 3,300 animals representing 280 species. Opened in 1928, the Detroit Zoo was the first zoo in the United States to use barless exhibits extensively.
Accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, the Detroit Zoo features many award-winning exhibits including the Wildlife Interpretive Gallery, National Amphibian Conservation Center, Great Apes of Harambee and Arctic Ring of Life, which was named the number-two best zoo exhibit in the U.S. by the Intrepid Traveler’s guide to “America’s Best Zoos”.
The Wildlife Interpretive Gallery is home to the Butterfly Garden, a tropical indoor habitat featuring hundreds of butterflies from Central and South America. Adjacent to the Free-flight Aviary, the facility also features a 90-seat theater and showcases the Zoo’s permanent fine art collection.
The National Amphibian Conservation Center is a $7 million, 12,000-square-foot facility situated on a two-acre Michigan wetland area and pond called “Amphibiville”. The exhibit boasts a spectacular diversity of frogs, toads, salamanders, newts and caecilians. The Wall Street Journal dubbed the attraction “Disneyland for toads”.
The Great Apes of Harambee is a four-acre indoor/outdoor habitat which houses chimpanzees, western lowland gorillas and drills. The animals spend their days foraging, grooming and playing just as they would in their native African environment.
The Arctic Ring of Life is North America’s largest polar bear exhibit. The $14 million four-acre interactive facility features the Frederick and Barbara Erb Polar Passage, where visitors walk through a 70-foot-long clear underwater tunnel as polar bears and seals swim around them.
Among other highlights at the Detroit Zoo are the expansive Australian Outback Adventure featuring a walk-through with kangaroos and wallabies, the Giraffe Encounter where guests can feed the Zoo’s tallest creatures, the Penguinarium (the first facility of its kind created specifically for penguins), the iconic Horace H. Rackham Memorial Fountain, the Tauber Family Railroad, the Carousel, and the Ford Education Center which houses the Wild Adventure Ride and the Wild Adventure 3-D/4-D Theater.
The Wild Adventure Ride is an educational, action-packed thrill ride which offers an exciting you-are-there experience from the comfort of a specially equipped motion-simulated big-screen theater seat. The 126-seat Wild Adventure 3-D/4-D Theater, the only theater of its kind at any Michigan zoo, delivers a high-definition viewing experience in 3-D with 7.1 digital audio surround sound, enhanced with full-sensory 4-D special effects such as blasts of wind, mist and scents.
The Detroit Zoo is located at the intersection of 10 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak, Mich. It is open daily 9 am to 5 pm April through Labor Day (until 8 pm Wednesdays during July and August), 10 a.m. to 5 pm the day after Labor Day through October and 10 am to 4 pm November through March (closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day). Admission is $14 for adults 15 to 61, $10 for senior citizens 62 and older, and $10 for children ages 2 to 14; children under 2 are free.
Belle Isle Nature Zoo
The Belle Isle Nature Zoo (BINZ) encompasses approximately 4 acres (1.6 ha) of undisturbed forested wetland on Belle Isle in Detroit, Mich. The Nature Zoo provides year-round educational, recreational and environmental conservation opportunities for the community.
A Deer Encounter, where fallow deer that once roamed the island can be fed by visitors, is part of a multi-phase project to convert the former nature center on Belle Isle into a Nature Zoo focusing on Michigan wildlife, flora and fauna. The Nature Zoo also includes a renovated auditorium, a turtle exhibit featuring native Michigan turtles, an indoor beehive allowing year-round viewing of bee behavior, a spider exhibit and a Creation Station for children’s educational programming.
Future plans for the Nature Zoo include more nature trails, small mammal exhibits, aquatic life exhibits, a wetland pond and an amphitheater.
Some of the notable animals in the zoo include the following (not an exhaustive list): red kangaroo, red-necked wallaby, Matschie's tree-kangaroo, aardvark, Hoffmann's two-toed sloth, giant anteater, black-and-white ruffed lemur, ring-tailed lemur, Japanese macaque, lion-tailed macaque, drill, western lowland gorilla, chimpanzee, black-tailed prairie dog, capybara, lion, Siberian tiger, Arctic fox, black bear, brown bear, grizzly bear, polar bear, grey seal, harp seal, harbor seal, North American river otter, wolverine, red panda, miniature donkey, Przewalski's horse, Grevy's zebra, southern white rhinoceros, warthog, bactrian camel, guanaco, Chilean pudu, American elk, lesser kudu, white-lipped deer, fallow deer, giraffe, American bison, domestic yak, highland cattle, Sichuan takin, bush dog, macaroni penguin, rockhopper penguin, king penguin, meerkat, greater flamingo, Chilean flamingo, stork, gull, peafowl (peacock), grey crowned crane, macaw, duck, trumpeter swan, ostrich, emu, bald eagle, caiman, alligator, crocodile, rat snake, vipers, boa constrictor, tortoise, goldfish (carp), butterflies, turtles.
The zoo participates in numerous Species Survival Plans helping preserve critically endangered species. Trumpeter swans and Partula snails were raised at the zoo for reintroduction to the wild, while the zoo has taken in abused circus animals (Barle the polar bear in 2002), lions rescued from a junkyard in Kansas (2009) and grizzly bear cubs orphaned in Alaska after their mother was shot by a poacher (2011). The National Amphibian Conservation Center (or Amphibiville) opened in June 2000 and features displays of many varieties of amphibians from around the world and participates in research and conservation efforts for species including the Panamanian golden frog, Puerto Rican crested toad, and Wyoming toad. The Center for Zoo Animal Welfare (CZAW) was created in 2009 as a resource center for captive exotic animal welfare knowledge and best practices.
The zoo has a number of areas which allow access to the animal's habitats without barriers. The kangaroo habitat, aviary, butterfly house and the rain forest room at Amphibiville have no barriers to keep the animals away from visitors. Species displayed this way include macaws, red kangaroos, wallabies, sloth and iguanas. Peacocks roam the zoo freely and numerous wild native species live in the zoo as well including turkey vultures, squirrels and rabbits. Giraffe and penguin feeding programs also allow the public to interact with animals.
The Arctic Ring of Life, North America's largest polar bear exhibit, opened to the public in 2001. The Arctic Ring of Life exhibit is centered around a 300,000 gallon aquarium. The exhibit allows visitors to view the polar bears and seals from a 70-foot (21 m)long underwater tunnel. The tunnel is 12 feet (3.7 m) wide by 8 feet (2.4 m) tall and is made of four-inch (10.1 cm) thick clear acrylic walls that provide a 360-degree view into the aquarium above. Other new buildings include the Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex (opened 2004) and the 38,000-square-foot (3,500 m2) Ford Education Center (opened 2005) which offers school and youth group programs as well as having a theater and exhibit space.
The zoo made additional news in 2005 when it became the first U.S. zoo to give up its elephants on ethical grounds, claiming the Michigan winters were too harsh for the animals and that confining them to the elephant house during cold months was psychologically stressful. The elephants, named Wanda and Winky, were relocated to the Performing Animal Welfare Society's (PAWS) sanctuary in San Andreas, California. The zoo had housed elephants since its opening. Former Detroit Zoo Elephant Winky was euthanized in April 2008 at the PAWS sanctuary. The former elephant exhibit was renovated, and is now home to two white rhinoceros, Jasiri and Tamba.
Australian Outback Adventure opened in spring 2006, allowing visitors to walk through a 2-acre (0.81 ha) simulated Outback containing red kangaroos and red-necked wallabies. Nothing separates visitors from the marsupials, allowing the animals to hop freely onto the walking path. In 2011, the lions received a home makeover, which includes more than double the room to roam, new landscaping and a glass wall for a much closer encounter with visitors. The Detroit Zoo also has the Wild Adventure Ride (simulator), as well as a 3D and "4D" (3D with motion) theater, plus a miniature railroad and a carousel.
In 2013 the zoo celebrated their single largest donation ever ($10M) by announcing plans for The Polk Family Penguin Conservation Center (PCC) which would open in 2015. The PCC would replace the Penguinarium (which itself was revolutionary when it was built in 1968) and become the largest facility on Earth dedicated to the study of penguins. The Penguinarium is planned to be converted into a Bat Conservation Center once the PCC is open.
On February 18, 2006, the Detroit City Council voted to shut down the zoo as part of budget cuts, being unable to reach an agreement with the Detroit Zoological Society to take over the park and a legislative grant having expired that day. An uproar ensued and the Council, on March 1, 2006, voted to transfer operations to the Detroit Zoological Society with a promised $4 million grant from the Michigan Legislature. The city retained ownership of the assets, including the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak and the Belle Isle Nature Zoo in Detroit. The Society is responsible for governance, management and operations, including creating a plan to raise the money needed to keep the facilities operating for generations to come. On August 5, 2008 voters in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties overwhelmingly passed a zoo tax that provides long-term sustainable funding to supplement earned revenue and philanthropic support.
Peacocks freely roam the zoo and sometimes the streets of Huntington Woods that border the zoo.
- "Zoo Facts". Detroit Zoo. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
- "Detroit Zoo hosts 1 million visitors for sixth consecutive year". detroitnews.com. Detroit News. Retrieved February 4, 2012.
- "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. Retrieved February 18, 2011.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.
- Austin, William (1974). The First Fifty Years. Detroit Zoological Society.
- Houston, Kay (February 24, 1999). "How the Detroit Zoo's first day was almost its last". detnews.com. Detroit News. Retrieved July 9, 2007.
- "Wayne County – A Brief History". Archived from the original on August 26, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-07.
- "WWJ Newsradio 950 Our Staff". Retrieved 2007-10-07.
- Wonders Among Us: Celebrating 75 Years of the Detroit Zoo. Royal Oak, MI: Detroit Zoological Society. 2003. p. 91. ISBN 0-615-12418-6.
- "Facts About the Detroit Zoo". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Prices". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Meet Your Best Friend at the Zoo". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "CZAW". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Detroit Zoo Education". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Detroit Zoo Annual Report 2007-2009" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "The Wildlife Interpretive Gallery". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "National Amphibian Conservation Center". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "African Forest". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Arctic Ring of Life". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Attractions". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Wild Adventure Ride". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Directions to the Zoo". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "Hours". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- "About the Belle Isle Nature Zoo". Belle Isle Nature Zoo. Detroit Zoological Society. Retrieved 29 April 2014.
- "Belle Isle Nature Zoo". Retrieved 2012-06-26.
- PR NEWS WIRE (October 20, 2001). The World's Largest Polar Bear Exhibit Opens at the Detroit Zoo. United Business Media.
- Detroit Zoological Society (2001).
- "Arctic Ring of Life page 1". Archived from Arctic Ring the original on June 30, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-05.
- "Arctic Ring of Life page 2". Archived from the original on July 8, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-05.
- sends its elephants packing. Detroit Zoo. Retrieved on July 9, 2007.
- Elephants (April 8, 2005).Detroit Free Press.
- Detroit Zoo Elephant Winky Dies, Detroit Zoo, April 7, 2008.
- Rhinos. Detroit Zoological Society. Retrieved on July 9, 2007.
- Outback AdventureDetroit Zoological Society. Retrieved on July 9, 2007.
- Polk Family Penguin Conservation Center http://www.detroitzoo.org/press-releases-2013/10-million-to-support-detroit-zoo-penguin-conservation-center
- Bat Conservation Center reference http://www.hourdetroit.com/Hour-Detroit/June-2013/A-Really-Cool-Plan/
References and further reading
- Austin, William (1974). The First Fifty Years. The Detroit Zoological Society.
- Detroit Zoological (2003). Wonders Among Us: Celebrating 75 Years of the Detroit Zoo. Detroit Zoological Society. ISBN 0-615-12410-0.
- Fisher, Dale (2003). Building Michigan: A Tribute to Michigan's Construction Industry. Grass Lake, MI: Eyry of the Eagle Publishing. ISBN 1-891143-24-7.
- Rodriguez, Michael and Thomas Featherstone (2003). Detroit's Belle Isle Island Park Gem (Images of America). Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-2315-1.
- Kvaran, Einar Einarsson. Shadowing Parducci, unpublished manuscript, Detroit.
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