Detroit Zoo's Butterfly Garden closed until early summer

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

The Detroit Zoo's Butterfly Garden, a popular attraction that lets visitors interact with dozens of different species of butterflies and moths, is temporarily closed and won't reopen until early summer as repairs are done to the building it's in.

The garden is located inside the zoo's Wildlife Interpretive Gallery, which dates back to 1926. Sarah Culton, the zoo's communications manager, said roofing repairs are being done along with upgrades to landscaping and lighting. A living wall also is being installed. 

"We are planning to reopen the butterfly house in early summer, with the exact date yet to be announced," said Culton in an email.

Originally the Detroit Zoo's Bird House, the Wildlife Interpretive Gallery, which includes the zoo's popular butterfly garden, is temporarily closed while the building is being repaired.

The closure is the latest change at the zoo. Last month, all of the zoo's birds — including flamingos, ostrich, cassowary, sandhill cranes and all birds housed in the Matilda R. Wilson Free-Flight Aviary — were moved indoors and out of public view after a case of avian flu was confirmed in Kalamazoo County.

“This is an important preventative measure,” said Dr. Ann Duncan, director of animal health for the Detroit Zoological Society, in a press release. “By bringing these animals indoors, we can more closely monitor them and prevent contact with wild birds who may be carriers of HPAI (Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza)."

The zoo's $32 million Polk Penguin Conservation Center, meanwhile, finally reopened to the public in February after a 29-month closure because of building leaks. 

Irene Sabady holds her great niece Lila Painter, 2 1/2, as they wonder through the Butterfly Garden at the Detroit Zoo.

The Wildlife Interpretive Gallery houses hundreds of free-flying butterflies, according to the zoo's website. The zoo purchases about 250 butterfly pupae, or chrysalises, each week from growers in Central America. There are approximately 25 species.

The 10,000-square-foot building, which has a glass dome, was designed by the architect William H. Creaser and built in 1926 as the zoo's Bird House. It was renovated as the Wildlife Interpretive Gallery in 1995, according to the zoo's website.

mfeighan@detroitnews.com