Henry Vilas Zoo

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Henry Vilas Zoo
Location Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Coordinates 43°3′34″N 89°24′37″W / 43.05944°N 89.41028°W / 43.05944; -89.41028
Land area 28 acres (11 ha)[1]
Annual visitors 750,000
Memberships AZA[2]
Website www.vilaszoo.com

Henry Vilas Zoo is a 28-acre (11 ha) public zoo in Madison, Wisconsin, United States that is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Owned by the city of Madison, the zoo charges no admission or parking fees. It receives over 750,000 visitors annually.


In 1904 the city received 50 acres (20 ha) of land from William and Anna Vilas under the conditions that it be used "for the uses and purposes of a public park and pleasure ground".[3] The park was named in honor of the Vilas's son, Henry, who died at a young age from complications related to diabetes. The family stipulated that the park always be admission free.

By 1911, 28 acres (11 ha) of the park were partitioned into an animal exhibit, marking the creation of the zoo. The Madison Zoological and Aquarium Society was founded in 1914, and in 1926 became the Henry Vilas Park Zoological Society, which continues today. In 1964, the society was incorporated as a non-profit corporation.

For the hundredth anniversary of the zoo, the Society operated a "Zoo Century" campaign to support a $27 million redevelopment of the zoo over the next 10 years. Plans call for a new Arctic Passage exhibit and a redesigned Children’s Zoo.[4]

The zoo hosts an annual Zoo Run Run with a 5K-10K run/walk. The race starts and finishes in the zoo, and uses portions of the adjacent University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum.


Primates living at the zoo include Bornean orangutans, mantled guerezas, golden lion tamarins, white-headed marmosets, and lar gibbons. Other mammals represented are grizzly bears, Bactrian camels, reticulated giraffes, harbor seals, meerkats, lions, goats, American bison, prairie dogs, an American badger, porcupines, red pandas, tapirs, white rhinoceroses, black bears, polar bears, Barbados sheep, river otters, capybaras, kangaroos, wallabies, and a tiger. Reptiles include alligators, a variety of turtles and tortoises, native rattlesnakes, and anacondas. Birds include ostriches, flamingos, penguins, rheas and peacocks. Amphibians residing include the marine toad, poison arrow frog, and tree frog.[5]


  1. ^ "Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin". city-data.com. City Data. Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  2. ^ "List of Accredited Zoos and Aquariums". aza.org. AZA. Retrieved 11 November 2011. 
  3. ^ "Henry Vilas Zoo : History". vilaszoo.org. Henry Vilas Zoo. Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  4. ^ ‘Zoo Century’ Campaign Unveiled
  5. ^ "Animals". vilaszoo.org. Henry Vilas Zoo. Retrieved 11 November 2011. 

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