Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

Dane County Executive Falk Announces New Children’s Zoo and Polar Bear Exhibits at Henry Vilas Zoo

March 11, 2005
Lesley Sillaman, Office of the County Executive (608) 267-8823 or cell (608) 669-5606
County Executive

Madison – Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk today joined members of the Oscar Rennebohm Foundation, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and the Zoological Society to announce a new children’s zoo and a new polar bear exhibit at Henry Vilas Zoo. “The new polar bear exhibit and children’s zoo will be wonderful additions to our fabulous, free zoo,” said Falk. “These new programs will ‘wow’ visitors, as well as provide a powerful conservation message to the public. We thank the Rennebohm Foundation, the City of Madison and the Zoological Society for partnering with us for this important project.” The County’s contribution of $ 4.5 million will supplement the Rennebohm Foundation’s gift of $2 million dollars for the Children’s Zoo and the City of Madison’s contribution of $500,000 for the improvements. The total cost of the new children’s zoo and polar bear exhibit is estimated at $15 million. The Zoological Society is today kicking off their “Century Campaign” to raise $27 million over the next 10 years - $8 million of which will go to these two projects. "We wholeheartedly encourage the community's support to build these magnificent improvements that will benefit the community for generations to come,” said Steve Skolaski of the Rennebohn Foundation. "The Vilas Zoo is one of the things that makes Madison special," said Cieslewicz. "Today's announcement shows that we are committed as a community to making a great facility even better. This is a great opportunity that Madison couldn't 'bear' to pass up." “We are confident that our shared vision for the Henry Vilas Zoo, as it approaches its 100th Anniversary, is inspiring and worthy of this incredibly community asset,” said Keith Oleson, Board President of the Zoological Society. “I want to pledge to all the generous donors, Society members, volunteers and families of Dane County that the Society is prepared to help shape a great future for the Zoo.” The polar bear exhibit, named the “Artic Passage”, to be completed in 2007, will immerse visitors in the natural habitat of polar bears and will feature polar bears, seals, caribou, snow owl and cranes. There will be a birthing area for bears, and underwater viewing areas for visitors to see the bears and seals swimming. The exhibit also features a weather station that will be used to teach visitors about global weather patterns. The total cost of the polar bear exhibit is about $9 million. The new Children’s Zoo will include year-round animal exhibits, a walk through barn where children can view an animal care facility, interactive play structures, including a “Swiss Family Robinson Tree House”, a splash pad a train and a “Conservation Carousel” with 36 animals. The zoo will also add two new classrooms and an outdoor amphitheater as outdoor learning spaces. The total cost of the Children’s Zoo is about $6 million. “Today kicks off the Century fundraising campaign for the polar bear exhibit and Children’s Zoo, and other improvements,” said Falk. “These represent the next phase in more than a decade worth of improvements to the zoo, including the Big Cats exhibit, the Tropical Rainforest Aviary and the Discovery Center and we hope these donations will inspire other community organizations, foundations and citizens to join us in the effort.” ###