John Ball Zoo to open for season on Saturday

Esther, the red-footed tortoise, at the John Ball Zoo. (March 10, 2017)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The John Ball Zoo will open for its 126th season on Saturday.

Guests will get to see most of the zoo’s more than 1,500 animals including the tigers, chimpanzees, bobcats, grizzly bear and penguins.

A few upgrades to the zoo are scheduled to start later this spring after Kent County voters approved the zoo and museum millage in November.

“Given that the Kent County citizens were kind enough to pass the millage this last year, we’re starting to use that investment in the site so people will start see that at the zoo,” said Andy McIntyre, the chief operating officer at John Ball Zoo.

From Memorial Day until Labor Day, the zoo will offer a new bird show titled, “Realm of Flight Bird Show,” which will run three times per day.

“Imagine sitting in the woods, in a forested amphitheater, with a bald eagle that can fly over your head,” McIntyre said. “It’s really an experience like none other.”

The red-footed tortoises are also getting an outdoor exhibit.

“They’re a forest-dweller, so they’ll be out with shade. It’ll be really nice for them,” zookeeper Erin Sattler said. “It’s going to give them a natural environment and it’ll give them some natural sunlight, which they need to help with their digestion as well as their growth.”

The black-footed cats will also get a new outside area in the former alligator exhibit and the monarch butterfly exhibit will be expanded to house more species of Michigan butterflies.

The zoo will be open from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets cost $7 for anyone ages 13-61; $6 for kids ages 2-12 and adults 61 and above; children 1 and under are free. The admission rates will increase starting April 29.



John Ball Zoo