Review of the DeYoung Family Zoo DeYoung Family Zoo - Home Located in Wallace, Michigan, the DeYoung Family Zoo opened its doors in 1990. Over time, it has become known for its large collection of big cats, especially in lions and tigers, and the fact that it was featured in the television program “My Life is a Zoo.” The collection currently numbers at 450 specimens making up 125 different species. It’s actually kind of hard to categorize DeYoung. On one hand, several exhibits such as those for large predators are very nice and probably wouldn't look out of place in an AZA-accredited zoo (which this Zoo isn't). It also was great to see several new and unique creatures for the first time ever – black-backed jackal, zeedonk (zebra and donkey hybrid), zorse (zebra and horse hybrid), Eurasian brown bear, Barbary lion, Carpathian lynx, bonnet macaque, crab eater macaque, and pigtail macaque. The Zoo is also located in a pretty forest setting, allowing for some scenic walks between exhibits. Finally, some of the animal experiences like the big cat feedings (reminiscent of what could be seen in Out of Africa Wildlife Park) and hippo feeding (see my “Highlight of the Day” section) are very cool. But on the other hand, there is about an equal amount of disappointing or even atrocious enclosures. Also, it isn’t the most visitor-friendly establishment either with dirt paths, port-a-potties for bathrooms, poor signage (either minimally detailed, or not even present!), the entry and gift shop are little wood shacks, no map (a problem as it can be easy to get turned around in this Zoo), and even the barriers of every single exhibit are quite difficult to see through or take photos. It’s one thing to have chain-link or wire bars as the exhibit barrier, followed by a smaller fence to prevent visitors from reaching the exhibit fencing. But in this case, there was wire bar fencing taller than the average human serving as the barrier before the exhibit fencing. There is no concrete animal complex to be seen at this Zoo, so this review will be set up similar to my Alameda Park Zoo review. Rather than describing the exhibits in my usual “in order of being seen” structure, I’ll describe them into groups by animal types. Predator Exhibits – Most of these exhibits, scattered around the Zoo grounds, are huge in size, packed with lush plants, pools, logs, variety in terrain, and are the Zoo’s best habitats. Species here include: Eurasian brown bear, Barbary lion, Bengal tiger (both orange and white, three exhibits), Indochinese tiger, Amur tiger, cougar, wolf (timber, Arctic, Alaskan tundra, black British Colombian subspecies), coyote, and American black bear. Next, near the coyotes is a beautiful, scenic swampland for American alligators. Then, near the Bengal tigers is a trio of spotted hyena exhibits (one of which is a puny dirt cage) and a single enclosure for striped hyena; these are smaller than the other predator exhibits, but three of the four still have a decent amount of vegetation or rocky climbing areas to keep the unique carnivores busy. Finally, near the Primate area are a few hideous, tiny concrete cages for single individuals of these species: Eurasian brown bear, American black bear, striped hyena, and black leopard. Domestic Animals – For the most part, these creatures are located near the front of the Zoo. To begin with, a tiny cage for goats can be seen before one even enters the establishment. Next, there is a purple barn that is situated between two dirt pens: one for zorse, zeedonk, cows, and horse species; the other is for a variety of pig species. Then there is a hilly dirt yard for goats, sheep, and even a couple of donkeys next-door to the brown bears. Near the wolves is a pair of stinky, muddy pigpens – one for pot-bellied pig, and the other for various pig species. Lastly, a chicken cage is situated next to the binturongs and across from the deer. There is a variety of geese that freely roam the grounds as well. Small Mammals – Scattered throughout the Zoo are several cages that are mainly of poor quality. They are primarily either covered enclosures or corncrib cages with sandy ground and a little detailing ranging from climbing structures to rocky areas; some like those for the binturong or porcupine do have more height but not a whole lot. Black-backed jackals, Carpathian lynx (the nicest enclosure of the bunch – but still subpar for space), binturong, American badger, North American porcupine, striped skunk, and raccoon are the species present in these exhibits. There is also a pair of average sandy enclosures with a few trees for dingoes, and a pair of corncrib cages for either dingoes or New Guinea singing dogs (couldn’t tell). Hoofstock – In the far back of the property lives the Zoo’s largest resident – Wallace the Nile hippo. A small, covered shelter allows for guests to get close and feed the huge animal, and the rest of the habitat can be viewed from one side. The hippo habitat itself is decent, as it is huge, with a large pool surrounded by a good-sized sand area. Next, a gigantic forest habitat for white-tailed deer can be seen near the black bears. Lastly, next to the cougars is a pen for dromedary camel that is dusty and a bit on the small side. Primates – Ranging from corncrib cages to homemade wooden enclosures, these are definitely the low point of the facility in my opinion. Most of the species do at least have some height to their enclosures, but it’s not enough to make up for the lack of naturalism or enrichment. To make matters worse, I saw single specimens of these species: chimpanzee (named Louie), pigtail macaque, Celebes crested macaque, and crab eater macaque. Olive baboon, bonnet macaque, Japanese macaque, capuchin monkey, spider monkey, and ring-tailed lemur are the other primate species found around the Zoo as well. HIGHLIGHT OF THE DAY: This Zoo allows for visitors to feed the hippo lettuce three times a day. As I have never had an up-close experience with a hippo, of course I had to take the opportunity! It was amazing to get so close to the most dangerous animal in Africa, toss lettuce into its enormous mouth, and even touch its nose. Overall: As stated before, DeYoung Family Zoo is a very mixed bag, but ultimately a bit disappointing. The exhibit quality is about 50/50, with around half being at least average, while the rest is mediocre or horrendous. The visitor experience is also one of the weaker ones I've had in zoos. But on the bright side, carnivore fans won’t be disappointed as there are plenty of felines and bears in wonderful habitats, the rare animals are great to see, and it’s not often that one will come across a hippo feeding experience. It’s a zoo I’m glad I visited, but probably wouldn’t see again unless something major opens. As for the Zoo’s future, I believe I heard on here that a new primate complex is planned – and thank goodness too! The DeYoung Family Zoo gets ranked #22 on my list. This is between Alameda Park Zoo (#21) and Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Gardens (#23).