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T. Denny Sanford Foundation Donates $1 Million to Great Plains Zoo’s Lion Campaign

August 7, 2018

The Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History today announced that the T. Denny Sanford Foundation has donated $1 million to the Zoo’s “Building Our Community Pride” Capital Campaign. The Zoo kicked off a $5 million capital campaign in April to build a Lion exhibit. 

“Mr. Sanford’s generosity has helped move the Great Plains Zoo forward in many exciting ways over the years,” said Elizabeth A. Whealy, President and CEO of the Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History. “His generous gift to our upcoming Lion exhibit will help us create amazing, up-close experiences for children and families for years to come.”  Whealy cites the recently opened Fortress of the Bears as a model for the kinds of exhibits the Zoo now offers:  hands-on interpretive elements and play areas for kids; and lush, interactive animal-centric experiences for all. 

The Zoo’s new Lion exhibit will feature a pride of up to 10 Lions, including cubs every few years. The project also will expand seating capacity in the Maasai Market Café to meet the Zoo’s growing attendance of more than 300,00 visitors each year – as well as provide climate-controlled views into the Lion exhibit.  Habitats for Leopards and a new outdoor exhibit for Meerkats also are part of the project. The total Lion project is estimated at $8 million.

In April – with some existing donor funds in place -- the Zoo kicked off a $5 million capital campaign for new investments in the Lion project, including a Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce Community Appeals Campaign.  To date, the Zoo has raised more than $2.1 million dollars in new investments for the future Lion exhibit. 

“The Great Plains Zoo is a tremendous community asset for recreation and education,” said T. Denny Sanford. “I’m proud to help connect the children and families of Sioux Falls with the powerful learning experiences that a new Lion exhibit will provide.” 

The Great Plains Zoo & Delbridge Museum of Natural History is open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sundays from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., with the last admission at 6 p.m. Visit the Zoo online at, or call 605-367-7003 for more information about the Zoo and Museum.


The Great Plains Zoo and 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.