I just missed a time when at many zoos in the country, kids could sing and dance while learning about animals with zoo keys. In the 1960s 56 Talking Storybooks were installed at The Detroit Zoo and stayed active until the early 1980s.

Back when they were a major attraction for children, former Detroit TV kids show host "Bwana" Don Hunt recorded the Storybook commentaries that would play the following message when you entered the zoo:

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Welcome to the Detroit Zoo. Your zoo houses many interesting animals, each with its own fascinating background and peculiarities. If they could talk, the animals would tell many true and educational stories about themselves, but they cannot. So your zoo is equipped with Talking Storybooks. Each storybook is operated by a special key that is shaped like an elephant, and by inserting its trunk into the keyhole and turning it, you may listen to each storybook’s interesting story.


It Works Elsewhere Too

As the message continued it also informed guests that the keys didn't just work at the Detroit Zoo:

The elephant key is available at any souvenir or refreshment stand for only 50 cents and may be used again on your return. The same key also operates the Talking Storybooks at the Children’s Zoo and Aquarium on Belle Isle.

What Did The Keys Do?

The keys were named Trunkey The Elephant and when you inserted them into the various boxes there would normally be a singing jingle as well as fun information about the animals to make it more entertaining for children to learn about them.

You can listen to them below from various zoos:

Remembering Dino-Topia At The Detroit Zoo

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