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SAFARI LAND ZOO.

Detroits first zoological park was located at Michigan and Trumbull, long before Navin or Briggs Field, or Tiger Stadium. (razed) According to Images of America Detroit’s Belle Isle – Island Park Gem, The Detroit Zoo moved to Belle Isle in 1909. In 1956 the zoo would permanently move to the city of Royal Oak. At this time, the Belle Isle zoological park became a children’s zoo.

In 1980 this was converted to the Safari Land Zoo. In 2001, former mayor (convicted felon) Kwame M. Kilpatrick closed this facility temporarily.

The Belle Isle Zoo and the Belle Isle Aquarium have never opened since. Mr. Kilpatrick lives in a gated community in a Dallas, Texas suburb now.

Now let’s take a look underneath the catwalks

Here’s one of the facility buildings, complete with running water and all the lights still on.

These are the rear pen areas where they kept the Belle Isle mutant deer population for a few years. They are now moved to an open pen at the new nature center.

Pen for a “large field animal”

Um…For like, King Kong or something ? Look at the wattage they put into this electrical barricade !

Most of the grounds are completely overtaken by nature.

Life after people.

This is looking towards the main entry gates from inside.

Here are the main entry gates from outside of the zoo.

Ticket booth.

This is where you would exit the zoo.

Mushroom like understructure of the exit roof – this whole place has amazing rustic designs.

Mrs dFunk remembers going to the Belle Isle Zoo when she was very young, but I had no recollection of ever having gone through this park – until I saw this mural on the Arachnid House. This painting triggered the memory, I probably was here while I was in middle school.

I looked on YouTube but I saw no videos of the park when it was in operation. There are films up of the original Children’s Zoo that preceded this design.

Anybody have any memories or photos etc. of the “Safari Land Zoo” when it was still functioning ?


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Heres a few other folks who took some good shots of the place:

SWEET JUNIPER (an all round good read btw)

DANE VAN

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12 Responses to Belle Isle Zoo

  • I went there as a kid and loved it. I have a pic of me standing by the cresent moon. Years later I took my kids there and also took a pic. Would love to take my grandchildren for a pic. Does anyone know what happened to the cresent moon at the Childrens zoo?

  • One day I am going to buy that zoo and turn it beautiful again. I have awesome insights for it in the future.

  • And what on earth is the green apparatus in photo #19 ?

  • Yeah – bizarre indeed ! You know, before I went in I thought this place would be great fun to explore. It kinda has a creepy vibe tho. I kept thinking Rob Zombie should be making his next film in here….

  • haha, did you find the pile of bleached moose antlers under the catwalk where it dead-ends at the creek?

    freakin bizarre

  • I have vivid memories… it was our summer fun as kids! First time i ever saw an animal masturbate – it’s been at least 30 years. vivid memories…

  • Do you think that it will ever be restored?

  • Yeah – That was one of the ways I went, through the woods and across the canal.

    Im not so sure its all abandoned either, when I approached the main buildings in the first few images, the AC unit on the side was running ! Of course the lights and power were on in the various buildings too.

    Then there are definitely parts that are used for grounds keeping machines and storage. That zoo is much bigger than it looks from the perimeter !

  • Thanks for the shots, never seen the inside before!

    I don’t know if the facility is completely abandoned. There’s a little taken trail that runs immediately beyond the southern border – riding it in winter I’ve come across Deer and Turkey being penned in the grounds (of course the deer used once to run free on Belle Isle …).

  • very cool