Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, MI
Things to do when you are not at the Kalamazoo Rock and Mineral Show
by Jerrold VanNocker
There is excitement in the air.
I do not know why it is but in minutes of arriving at the Zoo my body starts to relax. Even before seeing the first animal a calming occurs, it has something to do with walking the pathway, the sound of other visitors and the trees over head. When I go to the local Zoo I feel like I am on vacation.
I know what some of you are thinking.
About now, some of you reading this are probably thinking, “I have been to the Zoo it was hot, crowded and I left the zoo worn out and tired!". Yah, I have been to Zoos like that too. Too much hot pavement, hardly any shade: spending a whole day trying to cover the grounds and still not seeing all the animals. But, there are some world-class habitat zoos in the nation that are not super sized and I happen to live next to one.
World class with out over stressing the visitor.
A relatively young Zoo (opened in 1977), the Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek provides an exceptional zoo experience without over taxing the visitor. From its start this zoo has aspired to create a venue where visitors could view animals in natural settings. Take a walk down one of its shady paths and you will find animals in among trees, meadows and ponds. Paths have been ideally situated so visitors are able to view the animals with minimal obstruction while at the same time allowing the animals opportunities for seclusion.
Ideally located on a diverse landscape of undulating glacier moraines and scenic wetlands a visitor can view all areas of the park in a fast 3, or a leisurely, 5 hours.
It is about quality not quantity
I believe Binder Park Zoo's finest achievement, to date, is its Wild Africa exhibit. To view this section of the park you board a free tram (just follow the signs pointing to Wild Africa). Besides providing you with transport to the Wild Africa exhibit the tram also creates a mental transition from the rest of the park into the zoo's fictional, African Zuri National Park. Exiting the tram you find yourself at an African styled village; food and trinkets are available here. The real show though is the animals. Cross over the plaza and take a few minutes to view the savanna. From the viewpoint of the village the savanna stretches for a good distance, here most of the animals will seem far away but do not worry, soon you will get that close up view. Currently around 13 different African species roam freely on this meadow. To get a closer look at the animals head towards the building labeled "Zuri National Park Entrance" and venture down to the Ranger Station where you can find the giraffe feeding station. Further down the path you will encounter the Lions.
In the Wild Africa area of the park you will find a number of animals in addition to those on the savanna, including a band of Red-capped Mangabeys and an aviary.
In addition to the Wild Africa exhibit the zoo houses a number of exotic animals, including a Chinese Red Panda, Snow Leopards and Cheetahs.
Things you should know:
John Wassner - "America's Best Zoos: A Travel Guide for Fans and Families."rates the Binder Park Zoo as one of the country's top 60 zoos and Wild Africa as one of the top 25 exhibits in the nation.
A few individuals have reported disappointment in visiting the zoo, either because their favorite animal was not represented or, at the time of their visit, there were few African animals on the savanna. Binder Park Zoo's appeal is that it is not a huge zoo, it is of manageable size, yet animals exhibits are in the same league as the huge zoos, including a large zoo likeToronto's. Also, there is a heck more shade at the Binder Park Zoo then you will find in many large zoos.
When you see few animals on the African savanna there are two possible reasons. 1. A baby giraffe has been introduced to the savanna and other animals are being helt back to insure its safety as the baby adjusts to the new environment. 2. The animals do not want to see you today. Hidden behind the grove of trees there is a second grazing area, animals can move in to this area anytime they wish privacy from humans.
Animal safety and confort take priority to us visitors seeing the animals. It is disappointing to go to the zoo, and see only a couple, or only one, baby giraffes frolicking with a few other animals on the African savanna. But, it is also exciting that animal health is taking seriously by the Zoo resulting in many succesful births. Seeing the young giraffes frolicking is exciting too.
• Leave the best for last; while I have emphasized the Wild Africa habitat area of the zoo in this article, visit it after you have already taken in the rest of the zoo.
• The Swamp walk is a pleasant loop through a Michigan wetland but at this time there are no zoo animals after the Mongolian Wild Horse exhibit, just wild native animals.
• For times and directions go to the Binder Park Zoo website. You can find a map of the zoo here.