Maple flavored ice treats, restaurant-grade smelt and sprinklers are on the agenda at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak on July 17, 2013. A heat wave has triggered a summertime ritual for the zoo animals aimed at keeping them cool and stimulated during the dog days of summer. (credit: George Fox/CBS Detroit)

(credit: George Fox/CBS Detroit)

Detroit Zoo
8450 W. 10 Mile Road
Royal Oak, MI 48067
(248) 541-5717

There’s a reason why the Detroit Zoo has exceeded one million visitors every year for the past seven years. It has spectacularly authentic habitats and is home to over 3,000 animals with a show of 280 species. Here’s a guide to help visitors navigate one of the most popular zoos in the nation, hopeful to run into to some lions, tigers and bears along the way.

The Gorillas Bachelor Pad

Always proving to be a big attraction for folks is the Great Apes of Harambee habitat that houses gorillas, chimpanzees and drills (short-tailed monkeys, very closely related to baboons). The featured habitat is approximately four acres and includes large outdoor areas, “airy day rooms” and has been carefully set up to create a a native African aesthetic. There’s a special area of the habitat that has been dubbed “the gorillas bachelor pad.” Be one of many zoo-goers to discover why exactly this is.

Cotton Family Wetlands

One of the newest attractions to open at the Detroit Zoo is the Boardwalk at the Cotton Family Wetlands. The habitat is more of a carefully preserved Michigan ecosystem filled with native fish, frogs, turtles and birds than it is a traditional zoo exhibit. Children may be particularly intrigued with the opportunity to view nature in such a way. And the audible ‘ribbit from toads are sure to cause more than a few giggles.

North American beavers are the largest rodents this side of the continent and as such, the underwater up-close views of them are sure to be a crowd-attractor. Another cool pull for zoo-goers are the windy walkways which measure 50, 100 and 150 feet long and include 10-foot-long benches for visitors who want to sit and observe wildlife. The walkway area and deck surrounding the beavers may also be rented for social gatherings and special events and can accommodate up to 90 people for a seated dinner and up to 200 for a strolling reception. The experience is called the Boardwalk and actually floats on the water’s surface, held in place by posts.

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A Middle-Eastern Treat

Not many zoos have Bactrian Camels, or any camels for that matter, yet the Detroit Zoo currently has three, Affectionately named Princess Jin (born in 1997) and Suren & Rusty (both born in 2008), these camels are quite the sight standing seven feet tall and weighing nearly 1,600 pounds. The weight doesn’t slow Rusty down as he is known for “prancing when he is happy.” Try to see if you can get close enough to view two rows of upper eyelashes that camels are known to have to help brave dust and wind of their natural habitat.

Simba the Lion 

What zoo is complete without a lion and some lionesses? Detroit’s lion habitat is a social place with the large cats occasionally playing with boomer balls and gathering together around warming rocks. Seventeen-foot glass walls provide ample views of the three female lionesses and the sole male lion (named Simba, of course) to watch people who are coincidentally watching them. It’s worth it to note that Simba has a dark brown- or black-colored mane framing his face, which is not as common an attribute of most blonde-haired lions.

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Sakina Al-Amin writes regularly for an accumulating number of online publications, but has dreams of one day being a spokesperson. She resides in the metro Detroit area with her husband. Her work can be found at