Dear Battle Creek,

Standing on Twiga outlook, zookeepers rustled branches of leaves. They called out to the giraffes, who were grazing nearby. For Binder Park Zoo’s biggest attractions (at least the tallest), it was opening day and their time to shine.

The first to arrive addax antelope. Followed by more addax. They stood in front of a giraffe, blocking my view. They rubbed their heads together, a sort of addax hug. Then one stared straight into my camera, as if to say, “See? We’re cute too.”

Look, I’m going to write an article about the giraffes this week. They are really cool and I have 100 photos of them.

But for today, Battle Creek, let’s talk about what some of the other zoo animals were doing on opening day.

Walking past Eliza’s exhibit, we heard shrieks and laughter. A human family said they were peering into the window to see what was there, and Eliza jumped out of nowhere to scare them.

Eliza the Southern ground hornbill is known for her playful nature and sassy attitude. She’s located next door to the carousel, which is open now.

Unlike Eliza, who was very busy Saturday morning, the lemurs were taking it easy. They all had their own spot of sunshine to lounge in. One sat up, legs crossed, palms up in a perfect meditation pose. I could relate more to another that was sprawled out on its back, untidy and absolutely comfortable.

The lemurs are right by the area known as the children’s zoo -- but that’s about to change. The entrance to the petting zoo area is closed off and signs are up for Zoorassic Park. Soon you’ll be able to see dinosaurs at Binder Park Zoo. The African pygmy goats are moving to Wild Africa, with the other farm animals.

There are more new things happening:

  • The new wolf exhibit is now the second largest area of the zoo. It gives the wolves plenty of space to roam around and will help with future conservation efforts to release wolves into the wild.
  • Bald eagles are going to be between the bears and wolves.
  • My personal favorite: Baby Freddie! I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about him this summer, but this is Freddie’s first time on exhibit. Freddie is a black and white colobus monkey or, as one young zoogoer said, the Oreo monkey. Like most kids, he likes to play until he gets tired out. Freddie is in Monkey Valley, along with Mom, Dad and Auntie Pudding.
  • The path to Wild Africa is now paved. It makes the half-mile walk easier if you decide to stretch your legs instead of taking the tram.
  • The carousel is open and the zoo train will open later this summer (it’s the miniature train ride that takes you on a loop through the woods, different from the African tram)
  • Looking for the dingoes? They are now in the space where the wolves used to be, across from the carousel. 
  • Butterfly chairs make a great photo opportunity. You’ll notice the colorful new benches dotted throughout the park.
  • Hudsonville ice cream is available at Kalahari Kitchen.

Whew! That’s a lot. I recommend zoo memberships. The animals are always doing something different, and it’s a good excuse to get outside and away from screens. Two visits for a family of four and you start to save money. If you plan ahead, members can save more money in Octoberwith free visits to the Air Zoo, Gilmore Car Museum and more.