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Great Plains Zoo Announces Plans for Lion Exhibit

April 18, 2018

The Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History has announced plans for a Lion exhibit that will be built in the Zoo’s Africa area. The new exhibit will feature a pride of up to 10 Lions, including cubs and additional habitats for other Leopards and Meerkats. The project also will expand seating capacity in the Maasai Market Café to meet the Zoo’s growing attendance of more than 300,000 visitors each year – as well as providing climate-controlled views into the Lion exhibit. 

“The addition of the Lion habitat will help meet the continued demand for new visitor experiences,” said Elizabeth A. Whealy, President and CEO of the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History. “The Lion exhibit also creates the opportunity for the Zoo to widen the scope of our conservation work; we will participate in critical conservation efforts for this vulnerable species that could be extinct in the wild by 2040.” 

The Zoo recently embarked on a $5 million capital campaign for the construction of the Lion exhibit. Campaign co-chairs are David and De Knudson and Matt and Cassie Blosl. The Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce’s Community Appeals Committee granted the Zoo the opportunity to raise $1.41 million from the business community during April – July 2018. The purpose of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Community Appeals Committee is to qualify and provide orderly scheduling of capital fund drives. 

“Over the past 12 years, the Zoo has gone from near closure to one of the most respected mid-sized zoos in the country,” said De Knudson, Lion Campaign Co-chair and a former Zoological Society of Sioux Falls Board Member. “Adding a pride of powerful, majestic Lions is an exciting new chapter in the Zoo’s tremendous success story.” 

The new Lion exhibit will add: 
•    A whole pride of Lions, including cubs
•    An African kopje (small rocky hill) habitat and yard
•    A “Big Cat” holding and breeding center
•    Zookeeper/Lion training demonstration area
•    Renovations to the Café and expanded seating capacity to meet growing attendance
•    Enhanced views into animal habitats
•    Additional exciting habitats featuring other Leopards and Meerkats 


Lion Exhibit - Cafe View


Lion Exhibit - Aerial View

“Thanks to the careful and deliberate execution of the Zoo’s Strategic Master Plan, the Zoo has created tremendous momentum in creating top-notch recreational and educational experiences for adults and children,” said Matt Blosl, Lion Campaign Co-chair and a Zoo Board Member. “The new Lion exhibit will help the Zoo connect even more kids and families with animals and the natural world.” 

The Zoo has moved briskly through a number of enhancements and projects outlined in the 2007 Strategic Master Plan, including: 
•    the Asian Cat exhibit, which opened in 2008, offers panoramic views of Snow Leopards, Amur Tigers and Pallas’ Cats. 
•    the Hy-Vee Face-to-Face Farm, formerly called the Children’s Zoo, was transformed into the colorful and fun Hy-Vee Face-to-Face Farm in 2009. The exhibit offers kids up-close feeding and petting opportunities.
•    Rare Rhinos of Africa, which opened in 2010, is an immersive and interactive experience that engages and excites visitors about Africa, Rhinos, and conservation. The project also created more spacious indoor and outdoor habitats, breeding center, and improved holding for the Rhinos.  
•    “Monkeys, Magic and More,” completed in 2013, added a Snow Monkey exhibit, the state-of-the-art KELOLAND Education Center, plazas, and outdoor Flamingo habitat, and reshaped the entrance to better serve the Zoo’s growing attendance. In 2015, the Zoo received “Top Honors” in Exhibit Design from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums for the Snow Monkey exhibit. 
•    “Fortress of the Bears,” the Zoo’s renovated Brown Bear exhibit, will open in June 2018. The exhibit will feature four Bear cubs and will include a lush Bear meadow, training demonstration window, and underwater viewing of the animals. 

“For years, the Great Plains Zoo has been such an integral part of enhancing the quality of life for Sioux Falls residents, as well as visitors to our city,” said Julie Choudek, Senior Vice President and Chief Credit Officer of The First National Bank in Sioux Falls. “As chair of the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Community Appeals Committee, I encourage the business community to rally around this campaign.”


The Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering a greater understanding of our natural world through education, conservation, recreation and discovery. The Great Plains Zoo is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) – a leader in wildlife conservation. Less than 10% of animal institutions in the United States have met the high standards for AZA accreditation.


  • 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.