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John Ball Zoo opens early for spring

Reduced ticket prices are offered now through April 27 for currently opened exhibits, such as the grizzly bears, otters, tigers, and the red panda, Wyatt.
Madagascar Giant Day Gecko at John Ball Zoo

Madagascar Giant Day Gecko at John Ball Zoo /Dylan Grosser

Underwriting support from:
Prehensile-Tailed Skink

Prehensile-Tailed Skink /Dylan Grosser

Whether it be fuzzy, feathered, scaly, or hairy, animals are on display for the early opening of the John Ball Zoo. The familiar sights of the zoo’s North American grizzly bears, tropical reptiles and amphibians, and of course the beloved red panda, Wyatt, are available for viewing to guests coming to the zoo.

All animals acclimated to the rising cool temperatures of Michigan’s early spring are open to the public, including the river otter, American bald eagle, cougar, white pelican, and of course all animals in the indoor exhibits, including the Van Andel Living Shores Aquarium, Frogs and Friends, and Treasures of the Tropics.

One early visitor, Linnea Dalman, said she was glad to take her family out to the zoo as the temperatures are climbing.

“It's a great place to take the kids, I mean when there's nothing to do and we've done everything, this is where we come,” Dalman said.

She said as a season member of the zoo she didn't have to pay for her or her family to get in, and it's a great opportunity for her family to get out of the house.

A grandmother, Anne Teesdale, said she enjoyed watching her granddaughter run around the zoo and talk about all the animals she liked.

“I like frogs and penguins,” said her granddaughter Celes Zukowski. “I wish we could pet the frogs, even though they're slimy I just want to feel them.”

Many new exhibits are coming to the zoo later this spring. These include the Parson's Chameleon - the largest chameleon in the world, a rare type of legless salamander called Caecilian, and the Canadian Lynx, sometimes referred to as “the ghost of the forest.” These animals are slated to be available for viewing this coming April.

Two tigers of an endangered species, known as the Siberian or Amur tiger, are being brought to the zoo as well, set to be available for viewing in the next two months. The two tigers, Titan and Finn, are brothers brought from the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo. According to National Geographic, there are less than 500 of these tigers left in the world, in danger of becoming extinct due to hunting and deforestation.

Wyatt, the red panda, remains the hottest new exhibit at the zoo. His popularity makes his viewing platform often crowded, which makes seeing the small reddish-brown animal difficult for some. Andy McIntyre, the Chief Operating Officer at the zoo, said Wyatt, who was debuted August 12, 2017, is cute as can be and important for guests to see.

“It's great for people to get a chance to see him. These are the types of exhibits that allow people to connect with an animal they wouldn't normally see, and obviously an animal that also needs some conservation focus and assistance,” he said.

The red panda is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with less than 1,000 of the species existing in the wild.

While many exhibits are open for this current season, most animals from Africa or South America are unavailable for viewers until April 27, 2018. Until then, tickets are being sold at a lower rate and reduced hours for the zoo are in effect as well. Ticket prices for adults 13 to 61 are featured at $8.50, while seniors, young children, and college students will pay $7.50 for entry, with infants under 1 years old receiving free admission. The current hours of operation for the zoo are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.


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