Did You Know Kalamazoo Had a Zoo That Remained Open For 50 Years?
Kalamazoo once had a zoo that experienced multiple wild animal escapes.
It is weird that we don't have a zoo in Kalamazoo however, there once was a popular zoo here for five decades.
Back in 1910, the city of Kalamazoo purchased land from the John Milham estate which became a public park named Milham Park. By 1927, the city purchased more of the surrounding land and opened the Milham Park Zoo. Did they miss the boat on naming it the Kalamazoo Zoo? I think so. Donors helped by providing animals for the zoo according to the Kalamazoo Library website,
The Joseph P. Westnedge Post, American Legion, voted to acquire two buffalo for the park. These were added to the small menagerie of peacocks, foxes, owls, swans, monkeys, raccoons, rabbits and black bears that were kept on the property.
It's unclear why the zoo ended up closing in the mid to late 70s. Some may think it has something to do with those dang clever monkeys. A Kalamazoo County genealogy and local history website says the monkeys escaped on at least two occasions,
In 1939 several African monkeys were donated to the park zoo. One immediately escaped to the delight of writers at the Kalamazoo Gazette who wrote stories with titles such as "Escaped Monkey Haughty After Capture." Monkeys escaped again in 1970 resulting in similar titles, "Monkeys Flee Zoo."
We don't know for sure if the zoo closure had anything to do with escaping monkeys or operation costs. Some sources say the zoo closed in 1974 while others say 1977.
Even though we don't have a zoo in Kalamazoo, we're not far from Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek and the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids.