John Ball Zoo, located in Grand Rapids, continued its attendance climb with its fourth straight year of increased visitors in 2014. The park continues to see strong attendance with a variety of animals and activities for visitors. The opening of the Tigers of the Realm exhibit in 2014 helped boost figures. For the spring of 2015, visitors already have something to look forward to with a baby Bongo born in December.
Never heard of a bongo before? You’re probably not alone. The subspecies of the antelope family is critically endangered and exist in only Kenya and zoos around the world. Neo, Swahili for gift, was born in December and now gives John Ball Zoo an exciting attraction for the 2015 season. The baby was born to a six year old female bongo at the zoo.
There is currently only one region in Kenya where less than 150 wild bongos live. Another 300 bongos can be found in North American zoos. Efforts are ongoing to replenish the animal into the wild. In 2004, 20 bongos were sent to Kenya in one of these replenishing efforts.
Bongos are hard to come by, but Michigan zoo visitors aren’t entirely new to the animal. Potter Park Zoo in Lansing has had a baby bongo born in 2012, 2013, and 2014. The zoo continues to then transfer its bongos to other zoos to continue the breeding efforts. On a regular basis, there are four bongos at this Lansing zoo. The Detroit Zoo and Binder Park Zoo (in Battle Creek) currently do not have any bongos on display.
John Ball Zoo is the fourth most attended cultural facility in the state of Michigan. In 2014, the zoo passed the 500,000 visitor mark for the first time. The zoo once again set a record after the 2013 season brought in a then record 494,000 visitors. For each of the past four seasons, the zoo has seen attendance increase. With new exhibits like the tigers, this baby bongo, and others, it’s with good reason that visitors will likely flock to John Ball Zoo in 2015.