Opened in 1883, the first Detroit Zoo was located on Michigan and Trumball Avenue, across from the current Tigers Stadium. A circus arrived in Detroit and went bankrupt, Luther Beecher a leading Detroit businessman, financed the purchase of the circus animals and erected a facility for their display and called it Detroit Zoological Park. The facility was closed the following year and converted into a horse auction house. Although the Detroit Zoological Society was founded in 1911, the zoo did not officially open until August 1st, 1928.
In 1930, Bears Den and Sheep Rock were added to the facility and were followed by the addition of the Bird House. The Elk Exhibit, Baboon Rock, Primate and Reptile Houses were constructed a short time later. The Detroit Zoo was the first zoo in the United States to feature cage-less exhibits throughout the facility.
Though the Great Depression put a temporary stay on further construction and expansion, the zoo resumed and has continued to grow since then. In 1939, Corrado Parducci, a sculptor, created the Horace Rackman Memorial Fountain, more commonly known as the "Bear Fountain'', which marked the first of four major donations made by Mary Rackman, in honor of her late husband.
Other exhibits include the Arctic Ring of Life, a $14.9 million interactive facility composed of 4-acres devoted to showcasing the relationship between people of the Arctic and wildlife. Amphibiville is a display dedicated to amphibians from around the world and is the home of the National Amphibian Conservation Center. The African Grasslands exhibit is designed to inform visitors about the unique ecosystem and native animals of Africa.
The Australian Outback Adventure allows visitors to walk through an actual habitat and get up-close to native Australian wildlife. The Wild Adventure ride is the first zoo-based virtual reality voyage and allows guests to experience an educational, action-packed ride centered on wildlife. One of the most popular attractions at the zoo is the Tabur Family Railroad, which was presented to the facility in 1931, and serves more than 500,000 visitors each year.
Approximately 99% of the animals found at the Detroit Zoo have come from other zoos around the country and all over the world. The Detroit Zoo strives to protect and preserve endangered and threatened animals. The zoo currently participates in the Species Survival Plans for 31 species including extinct-in-the-wild Partula snails and many other birds and mammals.
Today, Detroit Zoological Society is a non-profit organization that operates both the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Zoo. The society is responsible for the care and maintenance of approximately 1,800 vertebrates and 5,000 invertebrates which represent more than 270 different species.
The zoo offers guided tours, animal feeding days, summer educational programs and camps for children and many other interesting experiences for visitors. The facility is fully handicapped accessible, has several snack and concession stands, picnic areas and stroller/wheel chair rentals available. The Detroit Zoo is opened 362 days a year and the summer hours are November through March from 10 am until 4 pm, and April through October from 10 am until 5 pm.
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