By Krista Wilson
Listen Up Lansing Staff Reporter
Potter Park Zoo is the oldest public zoo in Michigan, and its main priority is to keep the public and animals safe.
Park Officer Sgt. Jordan Woodruff said, “The zoo is very safe, we have 24/7 coverage of the whole property.”
Amy Morris, zoo representative, said “We make sure the zoo is safe at all times because we don’t want anyone to get hurt. Animals like rhinos or tigers that could be potentially dangerous are not accessible for the public to touch, but our petting zoo exhibit is extremely safe.”
“The zoo has a very strict protocol where the whole zoo shuts down if an animal escapes,” said Woodruff. “If a child gets lost, we take that very serious as well. We lock down all the gates and don’t let anyone leave or come into the zoo.”
Dr. Allen T. Rutberg, said, “The welfare of animals and the welfare of human beings are linked, and to improve the relationship between animals and humans, there must be more understanding.”
”The animal welfare act was passed because the public pushed for regulations on the treatment of animals in public places and their use for medical research,” said Rutberg.
The zoo located at 1301 S. Pennsylvania Ave in Lansing, was originally just a public park when it opened in 1915. Morris said the very first animals were elk in 1920, and bears and deer were added that same year.
The land for the zoo was donated to Lansing by J.W and Sarah Potter, and the 58 acres was called Potter Park. It wasn’t until five years later that animals were donated to create a zoo, said Morris.
“It wasn’t until 1929 that the Bird House was completed, now it’s called the Bird and Reptile House,” said Morris. “A year later, the Lion House was completed, with the barn house coming almost 20 years later.”
Rob Vernon, Association of Zoos and Aquarium spokesperson said, “Our organization was founded in 1924 to ensure that zoos accredited by us meet higher standards than what is required by the law.”
Vernon said for a zoo to get accredited by the AZA, they have to get approved by the AZA Accreditation Commission, which carefully examines each zoo that applies.
“Benefits of accreditation helps zoos qualify for grant money easier and helps the zoos commit to the proper treatment of animals,” said Vernon.
Potter Park Zoo renewed its accreditation in 2007, after the zoo created its first advisory board to be represented in the Ingham County Parks and Recreation Commission, said Morris.