WRITER | NICOLETTE CHAMBERY
Reconnecting Michigan with Nature and Its Animal Inhabitants
While there are several zoos throughout Michigan, one in particular works to foster empathy and understanding for the natural forests, wetlands, and – of course – the various species it hosts on over 433 acres of city-owned property in Battle Creek.
The Binder Park Zoo boasts 600 specimens of over 140 species, including 32 exotic animal exhibits and one of the largest giraffe herds in the country. The park functions not only to showcase the incredible wildlife it features, but to preserve weakened species whose survival in the wild is endangered due to poaching, climate change, or other uncontrolled variables.
Approximately 30,000 visitors come through the park each year to see these animals in real life and learn more about them through the zoo’s programs.
These programs are designed to allay misconceptions about species perceived as threatening or scary, such as certain reptiles and amphibians that are, in fact, often reclusive and shy. The zoo organizes encounters with over 100 of these species with intent to dispel fears and provide helpful truths that enable reptiles and humans the chance to live in harmony.
Over the summer, the zoo offers camps for kids aged 2 through 17 that provide engaging encounters with the animals and hands-on learning activities to increase children’s knowledge about nature and the importance of conservation.
During the school year, the zoo accommodates groups of visiting students and can also visit classes with its traveling Zoomobile program that appeals to all ages and increases any audience’s knowledge about animals and their natural environments.
From April through October, the zoo hosts a variety of youth organizations for overnight stays that are designed to feel like safaris – but much safer!
A more romantic option is known as Sunset on Havana, where couples have the zoo entirely to themselves for two hours, followed by an elegant four-course meal paired with exotic wines. There is even the option for an overnight stay on the grounds, surrounded by zebras, giraffes, and antelope. Coffee and breakfast are provided the following morning.
Other program offerings include week-long biology classes for teachers, students, and parents looking to learn more about the science behind the animals and their natural habitats. The zoo is a fun destination for families looking to escape their weekend routine and is a great place to host birthday parties.
With its robust programming and interactive opportunities, Binder Park Zoo is one of the region’s leading cultural attractions and is sure to achieve its mission of activating a sense of wonder in all who visit.
The zoo is open this year until October 8, Monday through Friday, with special hours through the weekends.
Binder Park Zoo l 7400 Division Drive, Battle Creek 49014 l (269) 979-1351 l BinderParkZoo.org