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Grand Opening of Tropical Rain Forest Aviary Is Held at Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo

June 19, 2003
Sharyn Wisniewski (608) 267-8823
County Executive

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and zoo officials Thursday (June 19) celebrated the official Grand Opening of the Dane County Henry Vilas Zoo’s new Tropical Rain Forest Aviary. The three-story, 10,000 square foot building provides a South American rainforest experience for visitors, complete with tropical birds, plants and animals. It opens in time for the many visitors expected for the annual “Feast with the Beasts” event at the zoo on Saturday. The aviary will then be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. “This wonderful addition to our free zoo gives families an experience that is both fun and educational,” said Falk. “It helps us all appreciate the importance of rainforests and the relationship between the species of animals, plants and microorganisms.” The $4.4 million exhibit, $3.2 million of which was donated, features a 10-foot waterfall that empties into large aquariums that hold rain forest fish, including freshwater stingray and piranhas. A larger, 30-thirty foot waterfall flows into a stream, and an elevated walkway gives visitors full view of tropical plants and birds that are flying free. A simulated 30-foot high mud wall, with a pond at its base, creates a colorful home for macaws. Outdoor exhibits include capybara, the world’s largest rodent, and river otter with underwater viewing and flowing water features. “The Aviary helps build a bridge of understanding about the importance of all living species to humankind and the responsibility humans have for protecting animal and plant habitat and preserving wildlife,” said Jim Hubing, zoo director. “All the exhibits combine interactive graphics, plants and wildlife to give visitors a ‘wow’ experience.” The tropical rainforest aviary, similar to its natural model, will be in continual transition, plant and animal populations will change, and new species will be introduced. The Aviary is the fourth and final phase of “ReZoovenation,” which has added new, state of the art facilities for the large cats and the primates, and upgraded the visitor center and concession area. “Huge credit is due to the great energy and generosity of members of the Zoological Society. They have my thanks and gratitude,“ said Falk. The Henry Vilas Zoological Society, a non-profit organization supporting the zoo, donated $3.2 million for the project. Dane County’s contribution was $960,000 and the City of Madison’s was $240,000. # # #