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More than 1.27 million visited the Detroit Zoo last year

  • Detroit Zoo Water Tower
    Detroit Zoo Water Tower
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  • Bears at the Detroit Zoo
    Bears at the Detroit Zoo

Maybe it’s a desire to reconnect with our ancient bestial self or to remind ourselves we’re the all-time king of the jungle or maybe just good clean fun. But one thing is for sure. People like zoos.

In fact, people love zoos so much that the Detroit Zoo reached a spectacular 1,272,574 visitors in 2012, which is 55,374 more than the previous year. Add that to the Belle Isle Nature Zoo’s 37,746 patrons, and it is clear that people love zoos.

“The strong attendance figures made a good year even better,” said Gerry VanAcker, Detroit Zoological Society chief operating officer.  “It’s great to see the community continue to support and enjoy their zoos.”

Many things contributed to the higher numbers from a nice enjoyably mild spring to spring fever. Plus the Detroit Zoo got a rash of new animals including North America river otters, a Bactrian camel and red kangaroos.  After all, cute baby animals will always pack the house.

Bears at the Detroit ZooAdd to that the public debut of the much publicized, orphaned grizzly cubs Thor, Boo and Mike that were rescued in Alaska in 2011 and taken to the Detroit Zoo.

July saw science bringing in the crowds with Boardwalk at the Cotton Family Wetlands.  This attraction is a two-acre ecosystem almost bursting with life. Fish, frogs, turtles and birds inhabit the exhibit … all of which are native to Michigan.

2013 is now here, and visitor prospects for this year are as good or better. This year will see a new habitat allowing patrons to view North American beavers up close in their natural underwater habitat and observe what their secret lives are REALLY like. The exhibit was made possible by and named for its benefactors. The Jane and Frank Warchol Beaver Habitat is under construction across from the Edward Mardigian Sr. River Otter Habitat on the northern edge of the Wetlands.

River Otter At Detroit ZooThis winter you can experience the animal magic on Wild Winter weekends in January, February and March.  The eighth annual series of family-friendly events feature children’s music, zookeeper talks, games and crafts.  All activities are free with regular Zoo admission.

Here’s the schedule:

Wild Winter Arctic Adventure – Jan. 12 and 13, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Embrace the arctic chill of winter with arts and crafts and live performances.  Watch ice carving demonstrations and learn about the Zoo’s arctic animals with enrichment activities and zookeeper talks.

Wild Winter African Adventure – Feb. 9 and 10, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Celebrate Black History Month with an African drum lesson and listen to stories told by Kenyan naturalist and Detroit Zoo Education Specialist David Gakure.  Enjoy live entertainment, arts and crafts, games and educational experiences.

Wild Winter Safari Social – March 9 and 10, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ice cream and hot cocoa will be available for purchase at a discount.  Animal arts and crafts, face painting, animal enrichment activities, zookeeper talks and a winter safari scavenger hunt add to the fun.

The Detroit Zoo is located on 125 acres of naturalistic habitats so there is plenty to see. It’s open 362 days a year from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November through March, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through Labor Day and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. the day after Labor Day through October.

Admission is $14 for adults 15 to 61, $12 for senior citizens 62 and older and $9 for children 2 to 14 (children under 2 are free).

The Belle Isle Nature Zoo is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. November through March and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April through October. It’s closed Mondays and Tuesdays.  Admission is free.  For more information, call (248) 541-5717 or visit


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