The entrance to the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum.
|Date opened||30 June 1963 |
|Location||Sioux Falls, South Dakota|
|No. of animals||850 |
|No. of species||156 |
|Annual visitors||220,000 |
The Great Plains Zoo is a 45-acre (18 ha) zoo located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States. The Delbridge Museum is included in the zoo entrance fee, and houses a collection of 150 mounted animals including 36 vanishing species.
The Great Plains Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
South Dakota Senator Richard F. Pettigrew had a few animal specimens housed for viewing in local parks from the 1880s through the 1930s, when the Sioux Fall Parks System assumed responsibility and placed additional animals permanently on display in Sherman Park. The Zoological Society of Sioux Falls was established in 1957, and helped develop the Great Plains Zoo, which opened its doors to the public on June 30, 1963.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the zoo added a Children's Zoo, the Black-footed Penguin Rookery, Birds of Prey aviary, a Primate Complex, and a 10-acre (4.0 ha) North American Plains Exhibit. The Delbridge Museum of Natural History was added to the zoo in 1984 through the donation of more than 150 mounted animals from the CJ Delbridge family collection.
In the 1990s, the zoo renovated several of the aging facilities, and added new habitats including the Asian Cat Habitat, Wild Dogs of America exhibit, the Australian Outback, Bear Canyon, and Galapagos Tortoise exhibit.
Despite this by 2005, the zoo had slipped into disrepair. In 2005, the city hired Elizabeth Whealy as CEO and president in the hopes of improving the zoo. Whealy concluded that the zoo needed better animal care and better visitor care, and decided to make some major changes. Since then, the zoo has rehabilitated the zoo's ponds, brought in traveling exhibits like the albino alligator, and renovated old exhibits to house new animals. Other improvements are on the way. Since 2005, zoo attendance more than doubled, increasing to more than 272,000 visitors per year.
In 2009, the zoo opened the colorful Hy-Vee Face-to-Face Farm. This area brings kids up-close to animals with feeding and petting opportunities. It also features goat bridges and camel rides.
In 2010, the zoo opened the "Rare Rhinos of Africa" exhibit, an immersive and interactive experience engaging visitors on topics related to Africa, rhinos and conservation.
In 2013, the zoo opened a snow monkey exhibit in conjunction with a renovation of the zoo's entrance. The zoo is currently one of 13 U.S. zoos to care for snow monkeys, also known as Japanese macaques. The project also added a state-of-the-art education classroom and a play-and-learn area called Kids' Clinic.
Other exhibits include the Black-footed Penguin Rookery, the Birds of Prey aviary, Bear Canyon, the Primate Complex, the Wild Dogs of America exhibit, Australian Outback, the Galapagos Tortoise exhibit, and a children's zoo.
The Savannah Express runs from mid-May to Labor day, and on some weekends in the fall, every 15 minutes, weather permitting.
The custom-designed Sanford Carrousel is located near African Savannah, and is open daily during the summer.
Each year, the zoo reaches more than 40,000 kids and families in unique educational settings including summer ZooCamps, ZooCub classes, and ZooMobile programs.