John Ball Zoo opens Saturday with new animals

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The chilly March isn’t stopping John Ball Zoo from opening for the season this Saturday.

The zoo will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with animals that are more active and playful outside in the colder weather, including its Amur tiger.

Guests can also warm up while watching feedings indoors at the penguin, pelican, and spider monkey exhibits.

Visitors will also be greeted by new faces this year, including a scaly mammal called the six-banded armadillo, whose home is in the Natural Treasures building. Staff members say they have grown to love Joanna the armadillo, as they have watched her dig and explore her habitat. She shares it with Linus, a Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth.

The giant Pacific octopus is also new to the zoo.  As its name would suggest, it is the largest of all octopus species. The average adult giant Pacific octopus weighs more than 30 pounds and is considered one of the most intelligent invertebrates with acute vision.

Although they won’t be around for opening day, other animals will eventually join the zoo family during the 2019 season, including the Toco Toucan. The largest member of the toucan family, it is a brightly-colored bird, with a yellow-orange colored bill and a distinct black marking at the tip. The birds will be out for viewing in late spring or early summer.

John Ball Zoo is also playing matchmaker with Wyatt the red panda. The zoo will add a female red panda later this summer in hopes of red panda babies.

More than 2,000 bees will take over the Observational Bee Hive this summer, teaching guests about their biology, their crucial role in our ecosystem, and what we can do to keep them around.

Construction will begin this spring on another habitat for meerkats. Zoo officials hope to add the small mongoose later in the year.

A Cape porcupine, giant anteater, Von der Decken’s hornbills, Geoffroy’s spider monkey and lake sturgeon will also join the zoo at some point in 2019.

Parents can take their children to story time at the zoo and meet the animals associated with the story of the day. This is meant for preschool-aged children and is free with admission every Tuesday and Wednesday at 11 a.m. in the Natural Treasures Amphitheater, beginning March 12.

The gift shop also has new items featuring the many “cats” at the zoo, like the Amur tiger. Shoppers can also check out eco-friendly gifts like wood stickers and t-shirts and stuffed animals made from recycled plastic bottles, keeping in line with the zoo’s mission of protecting the environment.

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