Entrance to John Ball Zoo.
|Location||Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States|
|Land area||140 acres (57 ha)|
|No. of animals||2000+|
|No. of species||238|
John Ball Zoological Garden is an urban park located on the west side of the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States. The John Ball Zoo is situated on the ravines and bluffs along the west edge of the park.
The zoo houses a variety of animals from around the world and is a significant regional attraction. With the Zoo School and Wildlife Conservation Fund, the zoo gives something back to the community and world as a whole.
The zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and was the first zoo in Michigan to receive accreditation.
The original 40 acres (160,000 m2) of the park was donated to the city by noted pioneer and explorer John Ball upon his death in 1884. Shortly after, another 100 acres (0.40 km2) would be added and this marked the beginning of additional amenities, including ponds, a theater, a band shell, playgrounds, ball fields, trails, and the zoo. City commission records provide the first mention of animals at the park in 1891, when there was a debate about whether city money should be used to purchase more animals to add to the existing wounded and orphaned animals at the park.
During the Great Depression, the zoo fell on hard times. Most of the collection was given away to other zoos. The buffalo and deer were butchered to help feed the poor. Only a few aging animals remained.
During 1949, Katherine Whinery approached the mayor of Grand Rapids about resurrecting the zoo by forming a zoo society. A deal was formed that if a zoo society could be formed, the city would hire a zoo director to run the zoo. Fred Meyer was hired as the first director of the zoo. Construction of the Monkey Island Exhibit, the first major exhibit ever built, was started in 1949 with an opening date of June 1, 1950. During the 50-60s, John Ball Zoo was built in the hills of the park.
The John Ball Park and Zoo were operated by the City of Grand Rapids until 1989, when the park, known as a regional asset because of the zoo, was sold to Kent County. Kent County continues to operate and maintain the park and zoo.
During the 1990s, the zoo expanded with the building of Living Shores Aquarium, which is one of two aquariums in the state of Michigan, and new cafe eating area outside of it. Also done at the same time was a new bald eagle aviary. The Mokomboso Valley Chimpanzee Exhibit opened in 2001.
From 2000-2003, controversy arose over idea of moving the zoo further in to the flatlands of the park for an elephant exhibit. It pitted the zoo and zoo society against the neighbors of the park. The neighbors tried to get the city of Grand Rapids to designate the whole zoo and park as an historical site as one way to stop the further development of the zoo. In order to stop the arguing, Fred Meijer offered to donate land and money if the zoo would move.
In 2004, a ballot was put forward to voters in Kent County to relocate the John Ball Zoological Gardens; the referendum was defeated, and the zoo will remain at its current location for the foreseeable future.
In 2005, a new 75-100 million dollar master plan for the zoo was made involving all 140 acres (57 ha) of the zoo and park. Besides the existing camels, African veld, chimps, petting zoo, and animal hospital exhibits, it reworks the whole zoo. The new plan for the zoo features a system of streams named "Grand Rivers of the World" that would connect the zoo to the park surrounding the zoo.
On April 27, 2007, the zoo broke ground on the first phase of the new master plan, starting construction of a 4.1 million dollar 0.3-acre (1,200 m2) "BISSELL Lions of Lake Manyara" exhibit. The zoo has not had a lion since "Gilda", their last lion, died of old age in 2005. The exhibit was built for six lions, but only three were placed in the exhibit.
Kent County including in the 2008-2009 Capital Improvement Allocation half the cost of renovation of the Monkey Island Exhibit. The other half of renovation is supposed to come from the zoo society. As expected the spider monkeys roamed the new island in May 2009. The waist high concrete wall that surround the exhibit will be removed. The cement floor and rocks of the exhibit and moat will be removed and replaced with grass and more natural looking rocks.
On July 8, 2016, the stingray lagoon exhibit was closed after all 18 cownose stingrays and 3 spotted bamboo sharks died due to a mechanical malfunction. A heavy rainstorm, which shorted a pump circuit, was blamed for the deaths. The backup system intended to alert zoo officials of a pump failure also failed.
|238 total species||1184 total animals|
Most animals at John Ball Zoo were born in another zoo. Few of the animals are taken from the wild. Almost all the wild animals are at the zoo because they sustained injuries and can no longer live in their natural habitat.
In 2004, the zoo added a Komodo dragon named Precious. Precious is on exhibit outside the Treasure of the Tropics building during summer, and inside during the fall, winter, and spring.
The ring-tailed lemur exhibit was started in March 2009 and came out in May.
In 2010, the zoo brought in a troop of guinea baboons, the largest alligator outside of Florida, moved their flamingos to another pond, and altered the old tiger exhibit to hold a rock hyrax and a group of colobus monkeys.
John Ball Zoo School is a sixth grade only Magnet School for the Grand Rapids Public Schools. Each year, sixty students are selected for the school. The school teaches the normal school subjects but with a specialization using the zoo as a lab. John Ball Zoo school has extra curricular studies and the students get in based mostly on their MEAP scores. The students have to be very smart and capable of doing large projects, including studying current events and environmental issues. Zoo school students learn mostly by hands-on experiences; they get to go up to the zoo, go inside the animals cages, and other participate in other activities regular students don't get to do at a normal school.
In 1985, a conservation fund was started by John Boyles. The fund pays special attention to native Michigan animals, but also has funded programs in support of endangered amphibians and reptiles. The Wildlife Conservation Fund has funded projects that helped conserve wildlife and habitats in 30 countries.