ABOUT US

WHO WE ARE

OUR MISSION

John Ball Zoo inspires our community to be actively engaged in the conservation of wildlife and our natural environment

John Ball Zoo is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation committed to the advancement of public education on the need for wildlife conservation and preservation. On January 1, 2014 Kent County, owner of the Zoo, and the John Ball Zoo Society unified their respective operations at the Zoo to create John Ball Zoo. A long term management agreement is in effect that allows non-profit management with continued ownership by Kent County.

Our Vision: We envision a future of being a world-class zoo, a premier education facility, a renowned conservation center, and a wildly successful national visitor attraction.

Green And Blue Butterfly
IMPACT

John Ball Zoo IS The 4th most attended cultural facility in Michigan

ABOUT US

Core Values

Our core values or institutional values, define our essential tenets and shape our mission. While our mission is the why in what we do, our core values are the how in our why as an organization. How we accomplish our mission matters.

Conservation

Education

Community

Celebrate

Compassion

ABOUT US

Charity Navigator and Guidestar

Charity Navigator is the United States’ best “charity watchdog” and evaluates the financial health of more than 5,000 well-known charities. Each charity is given an overall rating, ranging from zero stars to the top rating of four stars.

  • John Ball Zoo, tax identification number 38-6076879, is an I.R.C. Section 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Your contribution is tax-deductible.
  • John Ball Zoo has the top Charity Navigator rating — 4 Stars/Exceptional
  • Only 10 percent of accredited zoos and aquariums reach this high standard.

GuideStar:
Search for John Ball Zoo on GuideStar! GuideStar is the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations.

Accreditation

John Ball Zoo has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1983

AZA accreditation assures excellent animal care and a dedication to conservation.

John Ball Zoo has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) since 1983.  Our accreditation is your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things.

Collectively, AZA zoos and aquariums represent the finest institutions and are visited by more than 130 million people each year. (That’s more people than attended professional baseball, basketball, football and hockey combined.) Accreditation is a detailed review and inspection process covering all aspects of an institution’s operation including the animal collection; veterinary care; physical facilities; safety; security; finance; staff; governing authority; support organization; involvement in education, conservation, and research; and adherence to AZA policies. Accreditation takes place every five years and is required for zoos and aquariums to be members of AZA.

With its more than 200 accredited members, AZA is a leader in global conservation and your link to helping animals in their native habitats through your local AZA institution. AZA accredited zoos and aquariums like John Ball Zoo are helping to preserve thousands of animals regionally and around the world through wildlife conservation programs with an annual average of over a thousand conservation projects in 90 plus countries along with hundreds of books, book chapters, journal articles, conference proceedings papers, posters and theses or dissertations on wildlife management and biology.

John Ball Zoo participates in a number of nationwide AZA conservation and animal management programs, especially the Species Survival Plan Program (SSP) and Saving Animals from Extinction (SAFE) program.  The SSP is one of our most powerful tools in combating extinction. AZA founded the program in 1981 as a cooperative population management and conservation program for selected threatened and endangered species at North American zoos and aquariums.

AZA works cooperatively with the U.S. Congress, federal and state government agencies, and international conservation organizations on legislative and regulatory matters pertaining to animal welfare, wildlife conservation field programs, conservation research and education initiatives and the public display of wildlife, including animal care and husbandry, transport and breeding.  AZA also participates in a number of international treaties and conventions impacting wildlife, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the International Whaling Commission, and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Millage

2016 Millage Proposal

The John Ball Zoo and Grand Rapids Public Museum Millage successfully passed on November 8, 2016. Thank you to our community.

The 2016 millage established dedicated funding for the care of animals and artifacts,  provided enhanced educational programs and funds for the repair and renovation of exhibits.

Facts about the Millage

  • This proposal created a dedicated source of funding for these publicly owned institutions.
  • It is a 10-year, .44 millage that starts in 2016 and ends in 2025.
  • The proposal is an annual increase of $37.44 per year or $3.12 per month, for the average homeowner in Kent County.
  • All millage dollars will be split equally between both institutions and go through an independent financial audit every year.
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Great Lakes Rare Turtles

Great Lakes Conservation
About

Turtles are in trouble around the world and locally. The Great Lakes Rare Turtle Program addresses on threats that are existential and widespread for Blanding’s, Spotted, Wood, and Box Turtles. The John Ball Zoo is working wth partners to study head starting as a conservation tool, protecting nesting habitat for Wood Turtles from raccoons, and researching the distribution and status of Spotted Turtles in Southwest Michigan. The zoo partners with local community scientists to indentify road crossings that pose a threat to Blanding’s and other species of turtles.

Partners

Poweshiek Skipperling

Oarisma powesheik

Facts
Habitat

Grassland, Wetlands (inland)

Threat Range

Critically Endangered

Region

Extant (resident) - Canada (Manitoba); United States (Wisconsin, Michigan), Possibly Extinct - United States (South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa), Extinct - United States (Indiana, Illinois)

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Mitchell's Satyr

Great Lakes Conservation
About

The prairie fens of southern Michigan are a stronghold for the Endangered Mitchell’s Satyr butterfly. We are working with Michigan State University, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Michigan Natural Features Inventory, and the Kalamazoo Nature Center to develp to propagate this rare butterfly. Offspring reared in the program may be used to supplement wild Mitchell’s Satyr populations.

Partners

Freshwater Mussels

Great Lakes Conservation
About

Freshwater Mussels are one of the most fastenating groups of animals. Unfortunately they are also one of the most imperiled groups on animals with more than 70% of North American species listed as Threatened or Endangered. Our own Grand River is home to an impressive 32 different species, 19 of which are listed. The John Ball Zoo is working with scientists at Grand Valley State University to evaluate Grand River Mussel populations. During the 2023 field season, the team documented over 1,000 individuals from 27 different species. This includes the Endangered Snuffbox Mussel.

Partners

Habitat Hero

Community Science
About

The Habitat Hero program is focused on creating better urban pollinator habitat by giving away native plants to west Michigan community members. By giving away native trees, shrubs and wildflowers, we are inviting community members to provide crucial nectar sources for pollinators as well as become more involved in pollinator conservation in their own yards and gardens.

Partners

Kestrel Nest Box Monitoring

Community Science
About

American Kestrels are one of North America’s most abundant raptors, but their populations have been steadily declining since the mid 1960’s. This year we have begun participating in the American Kestrel Partnership, run by the Peregrine Fund, to monitor local kestrel nest boxes and help better understand Kestrel population trends and biology.

Partners

Grand River Sucker Monitoring

Community Science
About

Suckers are a very important, and often overlooked, group of migratory fish that inhabit the Grand River. Every spring they migrate upriver from Lake Michigan to spawn in tributaries of the Grand River. We are joining a project started by the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago to determine how changes in temperature and flow of the streams impact the spawning behavior of the suckers.

Partners

Turtle Road Mortality Surveys

Community Science
About

One of the major threats to turtle populations is mortality associated with roads and vehicles. We have a team of trained volunteers who survey predetermined road crossing sites and report the number of turtles they find at these locations. We plan to use the data to assist in conservation decision-making regarding roads and turtles in west Michigan.

Partners

Michigan Butterfly Network

Community Science
About

As part of our pollinator conservation work, we want to understand how native butterfly populations are changing over time. By training community members to use the Michigan Butterfly Network monitoring protocol, we are offering passionate people the opportunity to help contribute to our understanding of butterfly populations in west Michigan.

Partners

Bat Surveys

Community Science
About

West Michigan is home to several species of rare and threatened species of bats. This summer we will have a group of volunteers collecting bat occurrence data by driving predetermined routes and using special recorders and software to identify bat species. The data will be submitted to the North American Bat Monitoring Project as part of their ongoing analysis of bat abundance and occupancy across North America.

Partners

Massasauga Rattlesnake

Great Lakes Conservation
About

The Massasauga is Michigan’s only venomous snake and plays an important role in the ecosystem. Unfortunately, these snakes are declining in numbers and are listed as Threatened. The John Ball Zoo helps to educate the public on the plight of the Massasauga and helps conservation biologists study them in the field. Currently, we are assisting Pierce Cedar Creek Institute, Grand Valley State University, and Sarett Nature Center develop new technologies to monitor this secretive snake species.

Partners

City Nature Challenge

Community Science
About

The City Nature Challenge is one of the world’s largest annual community science events. Started by iNaturalist in 2016 as a friendly competition between the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, this bioblitz has grown into a global phenomenon with over 500 cities participating. Taking place over the last weekend in April each year, the City Nature Challenge is all about getting outside and documenting the biodiversity in and around our communities while building and strengthening relationships with other people who are passionate about conserving local species. The West Michigan City Nature Challenge is Michigan’s only City Nature Challenge event, and encompasses Allegan, Barry, Kent and Ottawa Counties. We are excited to partner with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and many other local organizations to engage our communities in four days of exploring our biodiverse outdoor spaces.

Partners

Michigan Area

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Freshwater Mussels

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Habitat Hero

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Kestrel Nest Box Monitoring

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Grand River Sucker Monitoring

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Turtle Road Mortality Surveys

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Michigan Butterfly Network

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Bat Surveys

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Massasauga Rattlesnake

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City Nature Challenge

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Get Involved!