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$2.4M animal health center opens at Madison zoo

By: Associated Press//May 28, 2013//

$2.4M animal health center opens at Madison zoo

By: Associated Press//May 28, 2013//

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People wait outside for the grand opening of the Animal Health Center at Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison on Saturday. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Amber Arnold)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The Henry Vilas Zoo has leapt ahead of others in animal health care with a new $2.4 million center that includes technology rarely seen at smaller zoos and that will allow the zoo to bring in more exotic species, zoo officials said.

A grand opening for the center built with private money was held last week. The facility includes surgery and radiology rooms, along with the first portable digital X-ray system at a zoo in the nation, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. It has a large diagnostic space, quarantine areas where new animals will stay before moving to exhibits and an isolation room.

Deputy zoo director Jeff Halter said the facility was similar to that at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, where he worked for 14 years before joining the Madison zoo staff in December.

“I know we have some equipment in this facility that other facilities would die for, so it’s nice to be on the cutting edge of technology,” Halter said. “For a small- to medium-sized zoo like this, it’s pretty remarkable.”

Dr. Mike Petersen, the zoo veterinarian, said it’s a huge improvement from when he started 24 years ago.

“I walked in the door and there was a wooden surgery table,” Petersen recalled. “I don’t know where they got it. We replaced that right away and we’ve evolved some, but the main area where I’ve worked is just a small area in the administration building.

“We made do with what we had, and I really feel we’ve done a good job.”

The new center has displays for children to learn about animal care and windows where visitors and veterinary students can watch animals being treated. Along with helping train future veterinarians, the zoo also will be able to add more animals, Petersen said.

“This is really the foundation for the future of the zoo,” he said. “Now we’ve got the ability to care for different species of animals, so we can get in some really unique animals that maybe we couldn’t get before.”

A fundraising effort led by Friends of the Zoo, zoo employees and county staff has raised $2 million for the building so far, with $400,000 still to go, said Anna Reynolds, executive director of Friends of the Zoo.

Information from: Wisconsin State Journal,


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