County budget includes funds for additional zoo exhibits

Henry Vilas Zoo plans to reopen by July 1

County budget includes funds for additional zoo exhibits

Plans for additional educational exhibits in the new Arctic Passage exhibit at the Henry Vilas Zoo have been included in the 2014 Dane County budget, according to a release.

Joe Parisi, Dane County executive, said a $380,000 investment would create exhibits related to climate change awareness and implement other sustainability features throughout the new Arctic Passage exhibit.

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

The additions provide an interactive, educational experience for Artic Passage visitors, according to the release. The zoo also has plans to get a Tundra Buggy research vehicle that scientists used to give tours of the North Pole and evaluate the impacts of climate change.

The funds will also go toward installing solar panels and large rainwater collection tanks in the exhibit to increase the sustainability of the zoo, and creating energy and water resources for us on zoo grounds, officials said.

Parisi also announced Wednesday that the zoo once again received its five-year accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

“Being AZA accredited is a true honor,” Parisi said. “AZA accreditation is the gold standard for zoos and aquariums that provide excellent animal care, conservation and a great visit experience.”

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

“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,” Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz said in the release. “Arctic Passage will be a perfect example of this goal.”

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