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County Executive's Office

Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo Earns Accreditation from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association

October 21, 2002
Sharyn Wisniewski, (608) 267-8823
County Executive

Rigorous investigation shows zoo has high standards in animal care, education MADISON, WI – The Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo has earned accreditation granted by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s (AZA) Accreditation Commission, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Zoo Director Jim Hubing announced today. The announcement was made at a reception for zoo staff at the zoo’s Visitor Center, during which County Executive Falk distributed certificates to staff members, crediting them for their “commitment to excellence.” Falk said, “Like the thousands of people who visit our zoo annually, I love to see the animals and the educational exhibits. We have one of the few free zoos in the nation, and it is a jewel.” An estimated 525,000 people visit the Henry Vilas Zoo each year. AZA requires zoos and aquariums to become accredited in order to be members of the prestigious association. Accreditation is granted for five years, at the end of which the institution must undergo the rigorous investigation again to insure it meets ever-rising industry standards in animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, safety, and visitor service. “We are very pleased to grant accreditation to the Henry Vilas Zoo,” stated Sydney J. Butler, executive director of AZA. “Zoos and aquariums in North America are continually evolving and reaffirming their commitment to animal care, professionalism, ethics, conservation, and education. In turn they are enriching the lives of their community. Henry Vilas Zoo is no exception.” The mission of the AZA Accreditation Commission is to establish, uphold, and raise the highest zoological and aquarium industry standards though self-evaluation, on-site inspection, and peer review. The accreditation process includes an extensive initial application and a three-day inspection by a team of zoo professionals. A zoo director, veterinarian, and animal curator spent three days at the zoo the third week in June. The inspecting team observes all aspects of the facility’s operation in areas such as collection care (including living environment and daily enrichment), keeper training, safety for animals, staff, and visitors, educational programs, conservation efforts, veterinary programs, financial stability, risk management, and visitor services. In addition, each staff member was interviewed. “Our zoo staff is a team of dedicated, caring people. I’m tremendously proud of them,” said Zoo Director Hubing. He also credited the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine and the Henry Vilas Park Zoological Society for their ongoing support, “which makes it possible to meet these high standards.” The on-site review team prepares an extensive written report for the Accreditation Commission. Finally, a formal hearing is held where the Zoo Director is interviewed by the Commission, after which accreditation is either granted, tabled, or denied. Accreditation of zoos and aquariums became a mandatory requirement for membership in the 80-year old AZA in 1980. The Henry Vilas Zoo has been accredited since the program began in 1973, although accreditation standards have increased significantly, particularly during the past two years. The US Department of Agriculture and the Department of Interior license 2,400 individuals and organizations to exhibit non-domestic animals in the United States. There are 208 AZA accredited zoos. # # #