Detroit Zoo has more than 1.5 million visitors in 2017, looks for great attendance in 2018 with Dinosauria, new bald eagle, renovated habitats

Detroit Zoo has more than 1.5 million visitors in 2017, looks for great attendance in 2018 with Dinosauria, new bald eagle, renovated habitats
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The Detroit Zoo is a “go-to” destination for many Detroiters and visitors.

In 2017, the zoo had 1,560,981 visitors making last year the second most prosperous year in its history.

A significant number of those guests came in the last months of 2017 as part of the holiday-themed light display “Wild Lights at the Detroit Zoo,” which brought in 151,202 guests. The exhibit came in second in the 2017 Best Zoo Lights in the US by USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice contest. The Toledo Zoo’s “Lights Before Christmas” took the top spot. The winner was determined the number of online votes received.

“Wild Lights” had more than five million LED lights, around 200 animal sculptures and a 4-D theater where you could watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. There was also live entertainment, ice carving, food, photos with Santa and various arts and crafts activities.

The only year to beat out 2017 was 2016 when people flocked to see the long-anticipated Polk Penguin Conservation Center that opened in April.  Attendance that year hit 1,698,053.

“A spectacular Wild Lights display and continued improvements in operations and facilities are contributing factors to our robust numbers,” says Ron Kagan, Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) executive director and CEO. “We are grateful to the community for supporting their zoo and look forward to providing more outstanding experiences in 2018 as we celebrate our 90th year.”

Dinosauria returns to the Detroit Zoo this summer. Kids and adults alike will love it. Photo by Jennie Miller

The expectation is that 2018 will be another gangbusters year, given the return of the always well-received Dinosauria this summer with its more than 40 animatronics dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts.

This will also be the year that renovations will be completed on the giraffe habitat, Devereux Tiger Forest and Holtzman Wildlife Foundation Red Panda Forest. These changes, along with a new home for the Japanese giant salamanders at the National Amphibian Conservation Center, will be a treat for zoo goers.

Another addition is sure to generate enthusiasm.

A male bald eagle from southern Indiana is now in his permanent habitat at the zoo. One of the bird’s wings was severely damaged, presumably after he flew into a power line, and had to be amputated. As a result, he can’t be released back into the wild.

He was named Mr. America by the Vincennes, Ind., licensed rehabber who cared for him. He is estimated to be between 5 and 6 years old and, at just 6 pounds, is considered small for his species. Mature eagles typically weigh 10 to 15 pounds and have a wingspan of 6 to 8 feet.

Mr. America arrived at the Detroit Zoo in mid-November. One of the bird’s wings was severely damaged, presumably after he flew into a power line, and had to be amputated. As a result, he can’t be released back into the wild.
Photo by Jennie Miller

Mr. America arrived at the Detroit Zoo in mid-November and spent several weeks in quarantine at the Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex. He joins another rescued male bald eagle, Flash, in their American Grasslands habitat overlooking Pierson Lake.

Flash arrived from Alaska’s Kodiak Island in 2009 after suffering a wing injury that prevented his release back into the wild.

“We’re happy to offer sanctuary to another rescued, non-releasable eagle and provide him expert care and a great place to live,” says Scott Carter, chief life sciences officer for the Detroit Zoological Society (DZS).

In addition, there will soon be a Buddy’s Pizza within the zoo. When it opens this spring, it will seat 155 guests – 80 indoors and 75 on an outdoor patio and rooftop deck.  The 4,434-square-foot establishment will overlook Rackham Fountain.

Visitors also made their way over to the Belle Isle Nature Center last year. There were 111,928 guests in 2017, up from 95,363 the previous year.

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