John Ball Zoo

Current Habitats

Crawford Tigers of the Realm

Perhaps more than any other animal, the largest of the feline predators evokes awe. There is something deeply mysterious about this solitary hunter who roams the forests with strength and grace. No wonder the tiger is an iconic creature embraced as a symbol by religions, countries, businesses, sports teams, and more. Tigers loom large in folk stories, myths, music, and graphic imagery from pre-historic times to this day. Be sure to check out both the upper and lower realm of the tigers, as well as the trail system between, you never know where they will be!

Van Andel Living Shores Aquarium

Immerse yourself in the world of aquatic animals as you visit a Michigan stream, the coast of Patagonia, and the northwest coast of the US. Enjoy the Magellanic Penguins as they fly underwater and surround yourself with eels, anemones, and exotic fish in the 40,000 gallon Kelp Forest tank or the tide pool. 

Natural Treasures

You will discover a vast diversity of reptiles and amphibians and find many small primates along the way as well. The building houses mammals like the elusive Black-footed cat, six-banded armadillo, and a variety of small primates, as well as reptiles like the reticulated python, Grand Cayman blue iguana, and caimans. Here you'll also cross paths with smoky jungle frogs, Brazilian cockroaches, and even honeybees!

Wild Way Trail

This wooded trail begins at wallabies and ends at Red’s Hobby Farm. Along the way, kids can see if they are able to move the wild way, just like the animals! Ring-tailed lemurs, howler monkeys, and parrots can also be found on the trail. (Seasonal dates of operation, dependent upon outdoor temperatures)

Red's Hobby Farm

The interactive children’s zoo focuses on birds and domestic animals found on today’s farms both urban and rural. Brush a goat or a sheep!  Look close by and find some wild animals that like to reside at farms too! Red's Hobby Farm is primarily open for hands-on experiences daily June-Early September. 


This section of the zoo features a variety of African primates, mammals, and birds. Head over to Mokomboso Valley to view our troop of 6 chimpanzees in their 3.5-acre habitat - one of the largest in the country! Right next door you can visit Bissell’s Lions of Lake Manyara, constructed in 2008 which is another habitat that ranks among the largest in the nation! Other animals featured in the African section include the mountain bongo antelope, southern ground hornbills, Von der Decken's hornbills, and warthog. Feeling adventurous? Try riding a camel!

Newly constructed in 2020 is our Meerkat and Cape Porcupine Habitat, a SITES Gold certified building and outdoor habitat space. This addition makes JBZ the first and only Zoo in the world to meet the high standards of SITES certification. The building features various native plants, a green roof, solar panels, and viewable tunnels for kids.

North America

Our own country and continent is home to a number of amazing animals from grizzly bears to mountain lions. Here you can watch the underwater antics of the playful river otters and even get nose-to-nose with the bears. Also found in the North America region are golden eagles, Canada lynx, and North American porcupine.

South America

See what kind of cool creatures live on the other side of the equator! This area features the maned wolf, saki monkeys, Toco toucans, and Chilean flamingos. Sharing a habitat are Southern crested screamers, capybaras, and giant anteater. Stop by periodically in the summer to watch as our own monarch butterflies grow up and prepare for their journey south!


Featuring about 50 different frogs, toads, and salamanders representing 15 different species, this habitat is intentionally designed to capture the attention of young children. Poisonous dart frogs, red-eyed tree frogs, caecilians, and salamanders are just a few of the species inhabiting the Frogs & Friends building. Here you can see Panamanian golden frogs, a species that has been extinct in the wild for over 40 years! Frogs are excellent at camoflauge, see who can find all of the frogs first!  Make sure to press the buttons to hear the ‘call’ of many Michigan frogs so you can identify them in your own backyard!

Idema Forest Realm

The Realm is accessible by foot or directly by the Idema Funicular. 

The Forest Realm Trail is a wooded nature walk that takes the visitor along the back portion of the Zoo overlooking the maned wolves and the grizzly bear exhibit and is home to the Crawford Tigers of the Realm. Be sure to walk the entire length of the Forest Realm because there’s something to see and do wherever you are. The TreeTops Outpost and Children’s Nature Play Zones both utilize natural materials to engage children in play, to spark creativity, and to encourage outdoor recreation. At the east end of the trail, you’ll find a public observation deck offering a sweeping view of the downtown cityscape. The Bissell Tree House, which is available for private rentals such as weddings and corporate events, is also located at the end of the trail.