Oak Park, Michigan

Oak Park, Michigan is a northern suburb of the Detroit metro area.  After a rocky start in the early 1900s when the village was nearly disbanded, Oak Park eventually became a thriving little village.  When the GI Bill helped World War II veterans buy houses, Oak Park became “America’s Fastest Growing City” and now has about 30,000 people living there. Further facts about Southfield, MI can be found here.

Detroit Zoo

Only 3 miles northeast of Oak Park is the famous Detroit Zoo.  The Detroit Zoo is known as an international leader in animal welfare and was the first zoo in the United States to have habitats without fences and bars. Click here to read about Livonia, Michigan.


The Detroit Zoo opened in 1883 with leftover circus animals from a failed circus that was passing through town.  It only lasted a year until it was shut down and turned into a horse auction.  The Detroit Zoological Society opened the zoo again in 1928.

Jo Mendi

In the 1940s the zoo director bought a 4-year-old chimpanzee with his own funds.  The chimp had been on Broadway and in movies and delighted in performing for zoo visitors.  He was able to lace his shoes, pour a cup and tea and drink it, eat with a spoon, dance for his audience and perform all sorts of tricks that made him a very popular exhibit at the zoo.


Today the Detroit Zoo has many different animal habitats.  One of the most famous is the National Amphibian Conservation Center.  This is a two-acre area of wetlands called “amphibiville.” Here visitors can see all different kinds of frogs, salamanders, newts, caecilians, and toads. The zoo participates in conservation efforts for many amphibians including the Panamanian golden frog and the Puerto Rican crested toad.

The Artic Ring of Life   

In this habitat, the Detroit Zoo has three polar bears, arctic foxes, and two southern sea otters.

Cotton Family Wetlands and Boardwalk

This is another wetland in the zoo.  It has a 1.7-acre pond and a 7,200-foot boardwalk that is made from 95% recycled materials.  The materials used were plastic grocery bags and reclaimed hardwood.  Here visitors can see more frogs and toads, plus fish, turtles, birds, and trumpeter swans.

Giraffe Encounter

The cool part of the giraffe habitat is the 18-foot platform.  The platform extends over into the habitat and you can feed the giraffes!  What could be more fun than having a giraffe right up in your face?