Great Plains Zoo

Great Plains Zoo
Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum

The entrance to the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum.
Date opened 30 June 1963 [1]
Location Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Coordinates 43°32′15″N 96°45′53″W / 43.5373805°N 96.7648048°W / 43.5373805; -96.7648048Coordinates: 43°32′15″N 96°45′53″W / 43.5373805°N 96.7648048°W / 43.5373805; -96.7648048
Number of animals 850 [2]
Number of species 156 [3]
Annual visitors 220,000 [4]
Memberships AZA[5]

The Great Plains Zoo is a 45-acre (18 ha) zoo located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, United States. The Delbridge Museum is included in the zoo entrance fee, and houses a collection of 150 mounted animals including 36 vanishing species.[3]

The Great Plains Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).



South Dakota Senator Richard F. Pettigrew had a few animal specimens housed for viewing in local parks from the 1880s through the 1930s, when the Sioux Fall Parks System assumed responsibility and placed additional animals permanently on display in Sherman Park. The Zoological Society of Sioux Falls was established in 1957, and helped develop the Great Plains Zoo, which opened its doors to the public on 30 June 1963.[1]

In the 1970s and 1980s, the zoo added a Children's Zoo, the Black-footed Penguin Rookery, Birds of Prey aviary, a Primate Complex, and a 10-acre (4.0 ha) North American Plains Exhibit. The Delbridge Museum of Natural History was added to the zoo in 1984 through the donation of more than 150 mounted animals from the CJ Delbridge family collection.[1]

In the 1990s the zoo renovated several of the aging facilities, and added new habitats including the Asian Cat Habitat, Wild Dogs of America exhibit, the Australian Outback, Bear Canyon, and Galapagos Tortoise exhibit.[1]

Despite this, by 2005 the zoo had slipped into disrepair. In 2005, the city hired Elizabeth Whealy as CEO and president in the hopes of improving the zoo. Whealy concluded that the zoo needed better animal care and better visitor care, and decided to make some major changes. Since then, the zoo has rehabilitated the zoo’s ponds, brought in traveling exhibits like the albino alligator, renovated old exhibits to house new animals. Other improvements are on the way. Since 2005, zoo attendance has increased over 60%, increasing to 220,000 visitors per year.[4]

Exhibits and attractions

The Asian Cat exhibit includes Amur Tigers, Snow Leopards and Pallas's Cats.[3]

The African Savannah exhibit recreates the area around an African watering hole, and shows how African animals like Grévy's Zebras, Reticulated Giraffes, East African Crowned Cranes, and Ostriches.[3]

Other exhibits include the Black-footed Penguin Rookery, the Birds of Prey aviary, Bear Canyon, the Primate Complex, the North American Plains exhibit, the Wild Dogs of America exhibit, Australian Outback, the Galapagos Tortoise exhibit, and a Children’s zoo.[1]

The Savannah Express runs from mid-May to Labor day, and on some weekends in the fall, every 30 minutes, weather permitting.[6]

The custom-designed Sanford Carousel is located near the children's zoo, and is open daily during the summer.[6]


The zoo hosts several education programs including ZooTot Classes, ZooMobiles, ZooZnoozes and summer ZooCamps.[3]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota". Retrieved 8 May 2010. 
  2. ^ "Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum". Great Plains Zoo. Retrieved 8 May 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum". City of Sioux Falls. Retrieved 8 May 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Falvey, Eryn (11 August 2009). "Changes at zoo improve attendance". South Dakota Public Broadcasting. Retrieved 8 May 2010. 
  5. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Retrieved 11 April 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "Rides & Attractions". Great Plains Zoo. Retrieved 8 May 2010. 

External links

Media related to Great Plains Zoo at Wikimedia Commons

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