Out and About: Rediscovering the Detroit Zoo

WRITER | LISA BECKER CAMPBELL
PHOTOS| DETROIT ZOO

This summer, the Detroit Zoo beckons to us without words. We are called by the antics and prattling of four domestic Bactrian camels (Suren, Rusty, calf Rusi, and her 4-year-old brother Humphrey); three red pandas named Ravi, Ash, and Ta-shi; and Mr. America, the bald eagle whose wing needed to be amputated after he flew into a power line and found sanctuary at the Detroit Zoo. Penguins, arctic foxes, tigers, Japanese macaques, and many more fascinating and diverse animals join in.

These unspoken invitations, along with new state-of-the-art habitats, amazing interactive exhibits, and award-winning initiatives, innovations, and enhancements, roar that now is the time to rediscover the Detroit Zoo.

New attractions include an expansive and immersive habitat for the Japanese giant salamanders, which has just opened at the National Amphibian Conservation Center.

Also, Dinosauria has returned for the summer. The largest dinosaur exhibit of its kind in the country features 40 lifelike animatronic dinosaurs that snarl and move along a four-acre trail.

Another upgraded exhibit is the Giraffe Encounter, where the patrons feed giraffes at an elevated viewing platform overlooking the giraffe habitat. Visitors must purchase a ticket for the supervised feedings, Tuesdays through Sundays from May through September.

Science on a Sphere is an amazing spherical display system that projects dynamic simulations of the Earth, its atmosphere, oceans, and land, delivering an entertaining and enlightening review on environmental issues that impact our lives. The Detroit Zoo is only the second zoo in the country to install this as a permanent attraction.

The Polk Penguin Conservation Center is another extraordinary new exhibit spanning two acres. The Center immerses visitors among more than 75 penguins of four species in their habitat through viewing options that include an underwater gallery with a vast window and two acrylic tunnels.

The Center is fashioned after the historic Antarctic expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton, a story that is today a renowned testament to endurance. The reclaimed oak lumber used on the Endurance 4-D experience is from buildings and barns in metro Detroit that have been salvaged. The oak was originally milled in the late 1800s/early 1900s and would have been the exact type and age of lumber used to build Shackleton’s ship Endurance.

The Polk Penguin Conservation Center received the 2017 Exhibit Award from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), a top honor (among seven countries) for excellence in exhibit design. The AZA also awarded the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) its 2015 Green Award, designating the Detroit Zoo the greenest zoo in America in recognition of its environmental leadership.

Additional accolades include the DZS being named the 2015 Best-Managed Nonprofit by Crain’s Detroit Business, winning the publication’s top honor for exceptional mission-driven management practices.

As part of the DZS award-winning Greenprint Initiative, bottled water is no longer sold at the Detroit Zoo, a decision that is keeping 60,000 plastic bottles out of the waste stream annually. Visitors may bring their own water bottles or purchase inexpensive reusable bottles at Zoo concessions, which can be refilled for free. Additionally, the Zoo no longer provides plastic bags for gift shop purchases; visitors are encouraged to bring their own bags or purchase wildlife-themed reusable bags.

The DZS has taken another innovative step on its “green journey” by powering Detroit Zoo operations with 100% electricity from renewable sources.  The DZS built an anaerobic digester — the first in Michigan and the only zoo-based system of its kind — that will annually convert 500 tons of animal waste into a renewable energy source to help power the Zoo’s animal hospital.

All of the recent upgrades and accolades aside, the Detroit Zoo still promises old-fashioned fun for sentimental parents and their families!

Guests have the opportunity to explore the zoo in the evening and enjoy family-friendly concerts in the picnic grove during Wild Summer Nights, which returns on Wednesdays in July and August.

Families can also enjoy more nostalgic entertainment with a ride on the meticulously maintained custom-made carousel adorned with 33 hand-carved and brilliantly painted figures. Or take a sentimental journey on the Tauber Family Railroad, which serves nearly half a million passengers each year since it opened in 1931. Roaming peacocks bobbing their heads and occasionally spreading colorful tail feathers as they meander around the grounds will also remind visitors of simple pleasures.

Today’s Detroit Zoo is an award-winning masterpiece of design, culture, and advocacy that promises a fun-filled, informative, and entertaining visit unlike any before.

The accomplishments at the zoo parallel exciting times of refurbishment throughout Detroit. For example, Pure Michigan magazine recently lauded Detroit as “America’s comeback city, with hundreds of new local shops and restaurants, vibrant neighborhoods, and palpable energy.”

Delightful rediscovering beckons!

 

The Detroit Zoo
8450 West 10 Mile Road
Royal Oak, MI 48067
(248) 541-5717 l DetroitZoo.org