Most People Have Forgotten About the Abandoned Michigan Zoo


The zoo that once thrived on Belle Isle, Detroit’s lovely island park, has a forgotten story that has faded from many people’s collective memories.

In this blog article, we’ll take a tour through the ruins of this abandoned zoo, learning about its lively history and current situation. Witness how nature has recovered the once-popular attraction, and learn about the efforts of those working to preserve its fading heritage.

The Belle Isle Zoo’s Rise and Fall

The Belle Isle Zoo, established in 1895 as part of an endeavor to develop Belle Isle into a cultural and recreational sanctuary, began with a broad assortment of animals, including seals, elephants, tigers, and bears. Attracting thousands of visitors each year, the zoo thrived until the 1950s, when the Detroit Zoo relocated to Royal Oak, marking a watershed moment. The Belle Isle Zoo was turned into a children’s zoo, known as Safariland, with a concentration on smaller domestic animals. Exotic animals such as giraffes and zebras were introduced.

Unfortunately, the zoo had financial issues, animal escapes, and vandalism. The Belle Isle Zoo closed in 2002 because the city deemed it too costly to maintain. The once-vibrant property, now abandoned, saw animals relocate to neighboring institutions, leaving the structures to crumble.

The Eerie Beauty of the Abandoned Zoo Today

Visiting the abandoned zoo now presents a disturbing and intriguing scene. Overgrown with weeds, vines, and trees, the cages, fences, and walkways now reverberate with the noises of birds and insects. Crumbling structures, covered with graffiti, serve as reminders of a bygone period.

Despite being a ghost town, the abandoned zoo continues to attract urban explorers, sentimental former visitors, environmentalists, and artists who draw inspiration from its degradation.

The Uncertain Future of Belle Isle Zoo

With Belle Isle currently managed by the state of Michigan, the zoo’s future remains unknown. While the state has spent in improving the island’s infrastructure and attractions, the zoo is not part of any plans for resurrection or destruction.

Various voices offer alternative futures for the Belle Isle Zoo. Some urge for its preservation as a historical and educational landmark, imagining it as a place for tourists to learn about the zoo’s history and the island’s nature. Ideas include transforming the zoo into a botanical garden, animal sanctuary, or public art area. Others advocate for its destruction, expressing worries about its current status as an eyesore and a safety danger.

Your Thoughts and Memories

What do you think should become of the Belle Isle Zoo? If you have any recollections of visiting the zoo or want to see how it is now, please share them in the comments section below. For those interested in the zoo’s relics, check out Steven Strauss’ stunning drone film or TheGadgetGuy1’s unsettling tour. Prepare to be mesmerized by the events that occur.


The Belle Isle Zoo, a once-thriving Detroit attraction, has been in operation since 1895 and was abandoned in 2002. Nature and graffiti have seized the zoo’s ghostly vestiges, which enchant urban explorers. Its future remains unknown, provoking disputes about preservation vs destruction. Memories and perspectives combine, representing the many emotions around this neglected landmark.

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