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Inspiring the Next Generation

Do you remember the first time you saw a giraffe, a lion, or a flamingo?  Many generations of nature lovers and wildlife conservationists made some of their first memories of animals right here at the Henry Vilas Zoo.  By providing a safe, fun place for children and families to connect with the natural world, the zoo helps to inspire the next generation to preserve these magnificent animals.  As an admission-free zoo, all Madison residents and visitors from surrounding communities can come to the zoo to connect with nature and learn how they can do their part.


Conservation Practices on Zoo Grounds

Henry Vilas Zoo leads by example in reducing energy use and conserving natural resources through several initiatives on the zoo grounds, such as recycling waste, using recycled paper, composting animal waste, using an electric vehicle, solar power, rainwater collection, biodegradable cups at the concessions, and more. Learn more




Green Features of New Construction and Renovations

The Zoo regularly renovates and replaces exhibits, and all recent building projects comply with LEEDS energy use guidelines. Recent examples include the sustainable timber used in the Children's Zoo Red Barn, the 2 million gallons of water saved per year by the Arctic Passage, and the rain gardens around the Animal Health Center. Learn more







Preserving Wild Species and Places

Conservation Events
Our Conservation Education Celebrations throughout the year are one of the most important ways that the Henry Vilas Zoo helps the wild counterparts of our zoo's animals. We hope you can join us at one of these events to help us make a difference. Learn more

Monarch Waystation
Henry Vilas Zoo has partnered with Monarch Watch, a program of the University of Kansas, to create, conserve, and protect monarch butterfly habitats. The eastern North American population of Monarchs is in decline due to loss of food and habitat. Our zoo features a Monarch Waystation, a garden for migrating monarch butterflies to rest and find food, on the hill between the Aviary and the penguin exhibit. Learn more about monarch butterflies and what you can do to help them in your backyard at the garden or monarchwatch.org/waystations. HVZ also participates in Plant.Fly.Grow.  which is a conservation initiative of Blank Park Zoo to help protect our native Midwestern pollinators.

Orangutan Species Survival Plan
Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz is the Field Advisor for the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Orangutan SSP
(Species Survival Plan). She has developed an information exchange program where she establishes relationship between orangutan conservation facilities (rehabilitation centers and zoos) in Indonesia and Malaysia and takes AZA professionals to these facilities to train them in modern animal husbandry, veterinary, training and enrichment practices. They also visit local communities living near critical orangutan habitat and teach them about the benefit of conservation to their communities and their local biodiversity, purchase land to preserve the established rainforest and lead tree planting sessions to restore damaged or eliminated rainforest, and bring economic support to the region.  Henry Vilas Zoo also fundraises for this project at our Orangutan Caring Day/Week celebration. HVZ also participates in and supports the Orangutan Conservation Genetics Project. The aim of this research is to generate genetic data for every individual in managed orangutan breeding programs across the world, beginning with the North American AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP), to develop the most informed captive management program for any species worldwide.

“Catching Hope: Re-purposed Poaching Snare” program
The saola (“sow-LAH”) is one of the most endangered mammals in the world.  It is disappearing mainly due to extreme levels of poaching in its habitat for animals that have value in traditional Chinese medicine. The saola itself is not the target because it is not worth money in the traditional medicine trade; there are too few. If poaching levels can be reduced, prospects for the saola are good because its habitat remains healthy—it is not being logged, affected by human incursion, or mining. The zoo's Education Department receives poaching snares that have been collected by anti-poaching survey teams from the field in Laos and Vietnam. We convert them into unique, handcrafted goods (dream catchers, keychains, and ornaments/wall-hangings) that we sell to raise funds to support the IUCN Saola Working Group (SWG) to train more anti-poaching survey teams. Hand-made repurposed snare crafts are sold at Conservation Education Awareness Days (such as Earth Day Celebration, International Red Panda Day, and African Penguin Awareness Day) and at special sales days held at HVZ throughout the year. Our Catching Hope project was recently featured in the Wisconsin State Journal! Click here to read the article.

Zoo Doo
 Made up of lion and tiger feces, Zoo Doo is an all natural deer deterrent to protect your plants and trees. In return, your purchase of Zoo Doo goes directly to support the conservation of lions and tigers in the wild. Zoo Doo is available in limited quantities for current members of Friends of Henry Vilas Zoo to purchase, with proceeds directly supporting the AZA Tiger SSP Conservation Program and the Ruaha carnivore project. Learn more about Zoo Doo or learn about helping big cats at ruahacarnivoreproject.com