The John Ball Zoological Garden, located at 1300 W. Fulton St. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, features more than 1,100 animals from Africa, Asia, South America, Australia and the United States. The zoo features many exciting and educational exhibits, including the Peter C. and Pat Cook Mokomboso Valley Chimpanzee Exhibit; the South American Boardwalk; the North American Trek; the Treasurer of the Tropics building; the Van Andel Living Shores Aquarium, Sting Ray Lagoon and the Budgie Aviary.
About one-third of an acre is devoted to the zoo's very own family of chimpanzees. The Mokomboso Valley Chimpanzee Exhibit, one of the largest chimp exhibits in the nation, is a natural environment that is home to these inquisitive, resourceful endangered species. The chimps enjoy an indoor enclosure on rainy, cold or hot days. Educational literature about these vibrant animals is available at the display.
The Mayan, Inca and Aztec civilizations are highlighted in the South American Boardwalk exhibit. Guests can talk to researchers at Camp Rio and learn about capybaras, the largest rodents on the globe. Wolves, guanacos and screamers also make the boardwalk a spectacular place to visit and learn. Meanwhile, the North American Trek features grizzly bears, wolverines, river otters and a variety of other animals indigenous to the U.S. Showcasing night animals, as well as a variety of reptiles, amphibians and small primates, Treasures of the Tropics is home to the only Komodo dragon in Michigan. It also houses a black-footed cat, dart frogs, caimans, fruit bats and insects.
The Van Andel Living Shores Aquarium offers insight into the world of aquatic creatures living inside a Michigan stream, the Patagonian coast and the northwestern coast of the United States. Penguins, and a variety of fish and invertebrates, make this exhibit enchanting for visitors. Guests can interact with wildlife by touching a sea urchin or a sea star.
A 5,000-gallon outdoor pool that allows visitors to see and touch sting rays and sharks as they swim by, Sting Ray Lagoon is the only exhibit of its kind in Michigan. The Far Side of the World Trail complements the exhibit, with the opportunity for visitors to venture out on the open seas for discovery and fun. Opened in April 2008, Frogs! opens up a world of about 80 animals from 15 frog and toad species. The bright colored display with interactive graphics allows children and adults to explore these vibrant creatures together. The goal of the exhibit is to foster a strong respect for the animals, which are in danger of disappearing from the planet forever.
The Budgie Aviary, an interactive exhibit situated near the Children's Zoo waterfall, is filled with vividly colored budgies, birds that are indigenous to Australia. Feed sticks can be purchased to allow the birds to eat out of visitors' hands. It is open during the summer months. Opened in June 2008, Bissell's Lions of Lake Manyara is one of the largest lion exhibits in the United States. Lake Manyara in Tanzania, named a biosphere by the United Nations due to its diversity of people and animals, is among a small number of places in the world known to have tree-climbing lions. The exhibit has a climate-controlled climbing tree and special points for panoramic viewing, including replica Tanzanian building.
A four-story, 300-foot zipline allows visitors to ride, while securely belted, over the zoo. Camel rides, swan paddle boats, turtle exhibits and a sky trail rope course, featuring two climbing levels for those 7 years old and older, make visits the zoo memorable and engaging for guests of all ages. The Wild Gift Shop provides an array of souvenirs from which to choose, including stuffed animals, books and collectible items. Gifts of the Wild, another gift store, offers a broader variety of items for children and adults, including T-shirts. The grounds also are the perfect location for birthday parties and special events.
The zoo has seasonal hours and is open every day, except Christmas Day. Single and double stroller rentals, as well as free wheelchair rentals, are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Group discounts are provided only for summer season, and must be ordered in advance.