Henry Vilas Zoological Society gives $8 million to support Henry Vilas Zoo

Henry Vilas Zoo
File photo

The Henry Vilas Park Zoological Society is giving roughly $8 million, nearly all of its funds, to the Madison Community Foundation to provide long-term funding for the Henry Vilas Zoo, according to a news release.

That agreement between Dane County and the Zoological Society was finalized Friday.

According to the release, the money will be split into three funds — a permanent endowment fund with more than $1 million, a fund with $600,000 for zoo-related purposes and a fund of about $6.5 million for educational and conservation programs, in addition to animal welfare and zoo projects.

“The Henry Vilas Zoo is a vital asset for our community. We are happy the Madison Community Foundation could be a resource to both the county and Zoological Society in bringing this matter to a positive conclusion,” said Bob Sorge, foundation president.

The announcement comes after the society’s formal relationship with the zoo ended earlier this year. As the society worked to transition fundraising responsibilities to Dane County, officials raised questions about how cash donations were being handled.

In November, Dane County Sheriff’s Department deputies launched an investigation into possibly missing donations.

According to the release, the society’s announcement is not related to the investigation.

In a statement, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said he’s pleased to reach an agreement that assures money raised at Henry Vilas Zoo will go directly to its mission.

“Securing these dollars, new funds added to the county budget for longer summer evening hours, and the recent accreditation by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums mean Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo will offer its best zoo experience ever in 2020,” Parisi said in his statement.

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