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Zoo gets big donation to help bring bears back

Published On: Aug 06 2014 08:16:04 AM CDT
Updated On: Jun 26 2014 07:36:06 PM CDT

Photo courtesy of Dane County Executive Office

Henry Vilas zoo's 30-year-old female polar bear, Mishka, died recently


Plans to bring polar bears and grizzly bears back to the Henry Vilas Zoo got a big boost Thursday thanks to a big gift from a local foundation.

The Friends of the Henry Vilas Zoo announced Thursday it has received a $150,000 gift from the Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Foundation to help them finish the zoo's new Arctic Passage exhibit.

"It's transformation for our zoo. It's still the place everyone knows and loves, but it's going to take us up that next step," Friends of the Zoo Executive Director Alison Prange said.

The zoo still needs to raise $850,000 to finish the project.

"The Friends of the Henry Vilas Zoo joins the entire Madison community in thanking the Goodman Foundation for its generous gift to the zoo and our Arctic Passage project," Prange said .  "This gift leaves us one step closer to bringing the bears back to Madison.  This remarkable new exhibit will truly transform our zoo into a place for our visitors learn, play and explore."

The zoo broke ground for the new Arctic Passage exhibit in March. The new exhibit will  have the zoo's first indoor restaurant, and new locations to house polar bears, grizzly bears and harbor seals. 

"The Arctic Passage will give our guests a way to see our animals in their habitats as never before," said Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz.  "These exhibits will enable zoo guests to see the seals swim underwater, the polar bears sleep in their den and a grizzly bear catch a fish from a stream."

The Arctic Passage is scheduled to open next summer.

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