Potawatomi Zoo

See the more than 400 animals that reside at this 23-acre nonprofit zoo in South Bend, Indiana, that offers opportunities for incredible up-close experiences.  

Child looking at red panda at Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, Indiana (photo courtesy of Potawatomi Zoo)

Grab a bite to eat in the Lodge Cafe at Indiana’s Potawatomi Zoo and you just might spot a bear watching you. That’s Muniri, an Andean bear whose habitat is on the other side of the glass wall. He arrived in summer 2023, becoming the first bear to reside at the zoo in 20 years, and was quickly identified as a visitor favorite. 

The 23-acre urban nonprofit zoo is home to about 430 animals — large, small, exotic and familiar — representing 136 species from around the world. Muniri, whose species is vulnerable to extinction, isn’t the only newcomer. So are the three African lions that live in a modernized, open-air habitat with boulders and climbing structures designed to replicate their native terrain as well as a massive double-horned southern white rhinoceros named Masamba. Another favorite is Zindzhi, a female Masai giraffe who, in late 2023, joined the herd of four that already called the zoo home. 

A memorable way to enhance a visit here is to book a behind-the-scenes Animal Encounter. These small-group opportunities offer the chance to interact with select animals and chat with their caretakers. Feed leaves to a giraffe from an elevated platform, toss fish to a crew of acrobatic river otters and touch the leathery skin of the rhino. (Additional tickets are required for Animal Encounters.) 

Families can also hop aboard the Potawatomi Zoo Express, a vintage electric train that chugs alongside many animal habitats including Monkey Island and Muniri’s outdoor enclosure, or take a spin on the Endangered Species Carousel. This ride for all ages features a menagerie of 18 handcrafted figures depicting rare and endangered animals from around the world. The carousel also has an ADA-accessible chariot for two. 

Founded in 1921, Potawatomi Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and participates in breeding programs to ensure genetic diversity and long-term sustainability. 500 S. Greenlawn Ave., South Bend, Indiana 46615, 574/235-9800, potawatomizoo.org