The Great Plains Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The facility is a 45-acre park that showcases more than 850 animals from all over the world in simulated habitats. The mission of the zoo is to fulfill four major objectives: education, recreation, discovery and conservation.
The zoo was developed in the 1880's, by Sioux Falls Senator Richard F. Pettigrew. Pettigrew had a few specimens housed for viewing in local parks until the 1930's. The Sioux Falls Parks System assumed responsibility for the park, and additional animals were permanently placed on display in Sherman Park. In 1957, the Zoological Society of Sioux Falls was established and assisted in the development of the Great Plains Zoo.
The facility first opened its doors to the public on June 30th, 1963. Through the 1970's and 1980's, the zoo experienced rapid growth and added a Children's Zoo, the Black-footed Penguin Rookery, Birds of Prey aviary, a Primate Complex and a 10-acre North American Plains Exhibit.
In 1984, the Delbridge Museum of Natural History was added, through a donation of more than 150 mounted animals from the collection of the CJ Delbridge family. Beginning in the 1990's, the zoo upgraded and renovated several of the aging facilities and displays. New habitats added at the time include the Asian Cat Habitat, Wild Dogs of America exhibit, the Australian Outback, Bear Canyon and Galapagos Tortoise exhibit. New species were also added to the zoo collection and included an African Black rhino, American alligators, Rock wallabies, Bald eagles, Chinese red pandas and guanacos.
The animals featured at the zoo are housed in natural habitats and modern displays. Such animals showcased at the zoo include Chilean flamingoes, Golden eagles, African Pygmy goats, Alpacas, zebras, giraffes, cheetah, and tigers, Costal Brown bears, Eastern bongos, Warthogs and Siamang gibbons.
In addition to the animals found at the Great Plains Zoo, there are also rides for visitors to enjoy. The Savannah Train Ride offers a behind-the-scenes guided tour led by the train conductor. The train operates from May through October, every 30 minutes from 10 am until 5:30 pm. The Carousel is opened daily and custom designed with 6 horses, 3 zebras, a white rhino, giraffe, elephant, rooster, deer, dolphin, cheetah and 2 panda bears. Critter Cabin is designed for up-close encounters with stars of the educational animal team and is opened daily. Animals featured at Critter Cabin are bearded dragons, ferrets, hedge hogs, California king snakes, blue-tongued skinks, African millipedes and many other types of animals.
The Great Plains Zoo is opened daily from April through September from 9 am until 6 pm and from October through March from 10 am until 4 pm. The facilities are fully handicapped accessible, also included are a gift shop, restaurant, wheel chair and stroller rentals.