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Press Release


May 14, 2018

Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo and Society announced today that Arctic Passage has won 8th place for the best zoo exhibits in North America. A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote over the last four weeks.

“Arctic Passage has been delighting guests for the last 3 years,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “We are proud of our zoo and our conservation efforts for polar bears.”

The top 10 winners in the category Best Zoo Exhibit are as follows:

  1. Sea Lion Sound – Saint Louis Zoo
  2. African Grasslands – Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium
  3. Museum of Living Art – Fort Worth Zoo
  4. Polk Penguin Conservation Center – Detroit Zoo
  5. Simmons Hippo Outpost – Dallas Zoo
  6. Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center – Indianapolis Zoo
  7. Meerkat Maze – Philadelphia Zoo
  8. Arctic Passage – Henry Vilas Zoo
  9. Predator Ridge – Denver Zoo
  10. Gibbon Trails and Langur Landing – Zoo Knoxville

“We couldn’t be more honored or thrilled to be in such great company,” said Executive Zoo Director, Ronda Schwetz. “Arctic Passage represents what accredited zoos such as ours can accomplish in both animal welfare excellence and species conservation.”

Completed in 2015, The Arctic Passage exhibit was built to grow the Zoo’s cold weather species collection and provide habitats for polar bears, grizzly bears, and harbor seals. The exhibit added a breeding space for the Zoo’s polar bears (an increase of 100% in space) and allowed for a significantly improved space for the Zoo’s harbor seals.

A strong public-private partnership between Dane County and the Zoological Society allowed the exhibit, which cost approximately $9 million, to be completed. “We are so grateful to the community for helping us raise the funds to complete this award-winning exhibit and helping us continue to transform the zoo,” said Zoological Society President Alison Prange.

The Arctic Passage project not only provides the best possible care and habitat for its animal residents but also connects guests directly to the animals, their story and the importance of conservation both of animals and the environment.

The completion of the ground-breaking Arctic Passage exhibit at the Henry Vilas Zoo transformed 1.7 acres of land and outdated exhibits into state-of-the-art habitats that allow for visitors to connect directly to the animal residents that call Arctic Passage home. The Arctic Passage exhibit has been transformative for the community and the Zoo, which has served over 830,000 visitors a year since the opening of the exhibit.