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Henry Vilas Zoo Receives AZA Accreditation, Additional Exhibits for Arctic Passage Announced

October 09, 2013
Casey Slaughter Becker, County Executive's Office (608) 267-8823, or cell (608) 843-8858.
County Executive

$380,000 Investment in Education, Exhibit Sustainability Proposed for 2014

The county’s Henry Vilas Zoo has once again received its five-year accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi announced today. 


Founded in 1924, the nonprofit AZA is a leader in global wildlife conservation, dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation. 


“Being AZA accredited is a true honor,” said Parisi.  “AZA accreditation is the gold standard for zoos and aquariums that provide excellent animal care, conservation, and a great visitor experience – all core values of our Henry Vilas Zoo and central to our zoo’s mission.”


To be accredited, zoo staff, operations, and facilities underwent a rigorous review to ensure the Henry Vilas Zoo has and will continue to meet rising standards for animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety. 


The AZA requires successful completion of their rigorous accreditation process every five years in order to be members of their association. 


“By meeting Association of Zoos and Aquariums Accreditation Standards, Henry Vilas Zoo sets itself apart as one of the top zoos in the world,” said AZA President and CEO Jim Maddy.  “The Henry Vilas Zoo is a leader in the care and conservation of wildlife, and in educating people about the natural world.”


The County Executive also detailed plans in his 2014 budget to make the largest expansion in Henry Vilas Zoo history – Arctic Passage – even better.  Parisi’s $380,000 capital investment would create additional educational exhibits related to climate change awareness and implement other sustainability features throughout Arctic Passage.


“Raising awareness of climate change, sustainability, and conservation is a major part of Arctic Passage,” said Parisi.  “It’s imperative that we continue to pursue practices throughout county government that will help us  save taxpayer dollars and reduce our impact.”


The additions provide an interactive, educational experience for Arctic Passage visitors, with plans to acquire a “Tundra Buggy” research vehicle that scientists used decades ago to provide tours of the North Pole and evaluate the impacts of climate change. 


This exhibit will give zoo visitors a unique understanding of the initial explorative efforts scientists conducted to examine the magnitude of current global climate issues. 


Parisi’s investment also provides for the installation of solar panels and large rainwater collection tanks in the exhibit to build on the sustainability of the zoo – creating energy and water resources for use on zoo grounds.


“As an AZA member another achievement we are proud of is our commitment to conservation both locally and globally. Our zoo continues to raise awareness of the conservation issues that we all face and how we can be part of the solution,” said Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz.  “Arctic Passage will be a perfect example of this goal.”


“The proposed sustainability additions to Arctic Passage go hand in hand with our zoo’s mission to conserve animal populations and educate the public about the natural world around us,” said Supervisor Chuck Erickson.  “I’m excited to see this project continue.”


An additional $3.8 million in Parisi’s budget will be invested in energy and fuel efficiencies in to further expand sustainability efforts county-wide.  Investments include $1.6 million in energy efficiency upgrades for the county’s human services building on Northport Ave.  This facility currently has 38 different heating and cooling units that are several decades old. 


And a $2.3 million investment expands Parisi’s commitment to make the county “CNG by 2023” through the acquisition of 13 additional vehicles, eight of which are snowplows, fueled by the cheaper, cleaner BioCNG made from decaying trash at the county’s landfill.  The county currently has 30 CNG vehicles in its fleet.


Construction of Arctic Passage and its adjacent year-round dining facility is slated to begin this fall, pending County Board approval.


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