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Funding Complete for African Expansion Project

SIOUX FALLS: The Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History (GPZ) has received $1.4M from the City of Sioux Falls toward its African expansion capital campaign. This amount completes the $8M capital campaign goal to bring back African lions to the Great Plains Zoo.

The fundraising campaign for the African expansion project kicked off in 2018, chaired by Dave and De Knudson, with the focus of bringing the roar of lions back to Sioux Falls with a lion habitat that meets the whole life needs of these big cats. Extending beyond lions, the project will modernize the habitat spaces for giraffes and meerkats.

“I am extremely thankful for the city’s match on the last portion of our African expansion campaign,” De Knudson said. “Roaring lions will be a fabulous addition to our zoo and city.”

In a private-public partnership with funding, the community rallied together to raise $6.6M for the project, showing its support for growth at the zoo.  Along with providing a new habitat space and a new species to GPZ, this project helps enhance the zoo to better meet the needs of our growing community.

“It is so exciting that the fundraising is complete for what will be the biggest exhibit expansion at the zoo to date. Using private and public dollars together to finish this project will provide significant enhancement to the gem of a zoo we have and will enable the zoo to continue its conservation and educational missions,” said Zoological Society of Sioux Falls Board of Directors Chair Jeanelle Lust.

GPZ leadership will now move into the conceptual design phase of the project. With GPZ’s mission of education and conservation, the habitats will not only meet the modern welfare standards of these animals who will call it home, but will also provide an immersive educational experience for visitors.

“It is an exciting time for our zoo and our community in Sioux Falls! I am humbled and amazed by the wonderful support of our donors and city leaders of this important project.  The zoo serves as an important community asset, providing memorable moments for our visitors with engaging and dynamic habitats for our animals, lending to a quality zoo experience that fosters love and appreciation for the natural world,” GPZ CEO, Becky Dewitz, said.       

Lions are listed as Vulnerable with decreasing population numbers, according to IUCN Red List.  It is estimated that between 23,000 – 39,000 adult lions remain in wild habitat today. Reticulated giraffes are listed as Endangered, with an estimated population of 11,048 adults today. As an AZA accredited zoo, GPZ participates in Species Survival Plan breeding initiatives that preserve the genetic integrity of animals while also participating in global conservation endeavors to save wild animals and wild places.

For more information on the IUCN Red List, please visit:

  • Love this zoo! Great place to get a walk in and the animals are everywhere! The museum/indoor part is very educational too. Has a lot of shade for when it's hot out. Very clean. Friendly staff.

    Taylor F.
  • We love to visit the zoo. They have great outdoor exhibits and lots to do inside as well. Great for kids and adults.

    Robin A.
  • Lots of great exhibits and animals to see! Fun gift shop and learning center.

    Stephanie N.
  • The museum gives you a break from the sun on hot summer days and has a great selection of animal exhibits from around the world. ¬†The zoo keeps growing and adding new animal habitats or improving existing ones. ¬†Membership offers reciprocal benefits to other zoos around the country.

    Bill T.