Polar bear exhibit at Henry Vilas Zoo wins national award

MADISON, Wis. - Henry Vilas Zoo's Arctic Passage exhibit won a national award as one of the best zoo exhibits in the country.

The polar bear exhibit took eighth place in USA Today's 10Best Zoo Exhibits category. 

“Arctic Passage has been delighting guests for the last three years,” Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said. “We are proud of our zoo and our conservation efforts for polar bears.” 

The Arctic Passage exhibit was built in 2015 to grow the zoo’s cold-weather species collection and provide habitats for polar bears, grizzly bears and harbor seals.

The exhibit added a breeding space for the zoo’s polar bears, doubling the size of their area, and significantly improving space for the zoo’s harbor seals. 

“We couldn’t be more honored or thrilled to be in such great company,” executive zoo d

irector Ronda Schwetz said. “Arctic Passage represents what accredited zoos such as ours can accomplish in both animal welfare excellence and species conservation.” 

A panel of experts partners with the 10Best editors to pick the initial 20 nominees. Then the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. 

The following were the top 10 winners in the category of best zoo exhibit. 

  1. Sea Lion Sound, Saint Louis Zoo
  2. African Grasslands, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
  3. Museum of Living Art, Fort Worth Zoo
  4. Polk Penguin Conservation Center, Detroit Zoo
  5. Simmons Hippo Outpost, Dallas Zoo
  6. Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center, Indianapolis Zoo
  7. Meerkat Maze, Philadelphia Zoo
  8. Arctic Passage, Henry Vilas Zoo
  9. Predator Ridge, Denver Zoo
  10. Gibbon Trails and Langur Landing,  Zoo Knoxville

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