Henry Vilas Zoo to house six new animals in 2015

Three sets of animals will be making a new home at Henry Vilas Zoo in 2015, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi revealed in a press release Monday.

The animals include a pair of red pandas, two Somali wild asses and grizzly bear sisters. Parisi made the announcement in partnership with Zoo Director Ronda Schwetz and Friends of the Zoo Director Alison Prange.

“Each of these sets of animals represent an important part of the zoo’s contribution to conservation efforts around the world, in addition to enhancing the experience of our zoo guests,” Parisi said.

Somali wild asses are a critically endangered species with fewer than 600 animals living in the wild. The new addition to Vilas Zoo will make it one of nine institutions in the world that house such a beast, according to the release.

The Somali wild ass is also the rarest wild relative to the domesticated horse. The species is commonly hunted for food and its medicinal value.

The new grizzly bears were removed from Montana after their mother and grandmother became a threat to humans and livestock. Because Henry Vilas is an Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited zoo, it can house the bears in its new Arctic Passage.

The red pandas, one of the most popular species at the zoo, are named Lum and Tai. They live in the Himalayas and are threatened due to deforestation.

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