The Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak broke its modern-day attendance record in 2015, with nearly 1.5 million attendees. The previous record of 1.3 million visitors had stood since 1997.
Ron Kagan, executive director and CEO of the Detroit Zoological Society, the nonprofit organization that operates the Detroit Zoo and Belle Isle Nature Zoo, credited the zoo’s strong programming and facility development as key reasons for the year’s high attendance.
“Wild Lights, wolves, dinosaurs, and continued improvements in operations and facilities are all contributing factors (to this year’s performance),” Kagan says.
He says 2015 marks the ninth consecutive year the zoo’s attendance has exceeded one million. Wild Lights, the zoo’s annual holiday light display, drew more than 144,000 visitors.
The zoo is gearing up for more attractions in 2016 as it prepares to open the Polk Penguin Conservation Center in April, a 33,000-square-foot facility that will house more than 80 penguins.
This year, the zoo also saw the opening of the $1.4 million Cotton Family Wolf Wilderness Exhibit, a two-acre, wolf habitat for the zoo’s pair of gray wolves.
The Detroit Zoo provides 125 acres of habitat for over 2,500 animals and collaborates with universities and conservation organizations around the world to provide habitats for endangered species such as snow leopards. The zoo generates around $100 million in annual economic impact. The Detroit Zoo has been open since 1928.