Madison’s Henry Vilas Zoo renewed its accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums on Sept. 6. According to the AZA’s website, less than 10% of about 2,800 wildlife exhibitors are accredited by the AZA.

As stated on the AZA’s website, being AZA accredited means Henry Vilas Zoo exceeds expectations for animal care and gets a stamp of approval to continue educating the community and continue their work in conservation.

Dan Ashe, AZA’s president, praised the zoo in a press release.

“Dane County’s Henry Vilas Zoo is among the outstanding aquariums and zoos that have met or exceeded our rigorous accreditation standards,” Ashe wrote.

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The Henry Vilas Zoo was already officially accredited, but AZA’s website states that every five years, accredited organizations must go through the application process again to maintain it.

According to the Wisconsin State Journal, in March 2019, the zoo had to make a critical decision to stop partnering with the Henry Vilas Zoological Society after 105 years of partnership. The society raised money for the zoo to keep it free for the public but much of its profits were going to accounts that weren’t accessible by the zoo.

The zoo was really hoping to use those funds to provide better care for their animals and keep up with their AZA accreditation, so they made the decision to part ways with the society.

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According to the Dane County website, with the recent approval to continue educating the families and community members who visit the zoo, Vilas is considering extending their hours next year so visitors will be able to attend the zoo more often. Instead of being open until 5 p.m., the zoo will be open until 8 p.m. in the summer.

Dane County’s website also said their renewed AZA accreditation and extended hours will hopefully draw even more people in.

The renewed accreditation will allow the zoo keep benefitting the local community, according to Dane County executive Joe Parisi.

“We are incredibly proud to have the trust of the AZA to continue conservation work, which is so critical and timely given the challenges species across the globe are facing,” Parisi wrote in a press release.