Joe Parisi, Dane County Executive

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Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo — a community treasure

As families map out their summer plans, many will find their way to Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo. There isn’t much left you can do for free nowadays, but Dane County’s public employees who care for the animals at your zoo have a lot to share this summer through their dedication to conservation, education and species survival.

As the father of two daughters, I’ve been part of the millions of visits to the Henry Vilas Zoo over the past decade. Whether I was visiting for the first time or the fiftieth, the value our community places on its free zoo and the incredible animals that live there is readily apparent. The hundreds of species we’re protecting and state-of-the-art exhibits they inhabit are only part of the unrivaled experience. The rest comes from the people — those who work there and the visitors they interact with — who help make the Henry Vilas Zoo a true community treasure.

There is a lot happening at your free zoo. Summer Zoo Camp registrations are up 30% over last year, allowing more young people to experience the wonders of the zoo. Nearly 9,000 people visited on Kid’s Day, coinciding with April being Earth month.

Your zoo is one of three participating in a first-ever effort giving our female polar bear a chance at having cubs later this year. As the sad realities of climate change become ever more visible, the zoo is on the front line of international work to protect endangered species. County zookeepers recently introduced endangered African Penguin chicks, Robben and Dassen, to the rest of their penguin colony so the new duo could make their debut to the public.

Thanks to your support, we have the makings for a truly exciting year at Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo. It’s your free zoo.