Sunday after breakfast, we headed to the Henry Vilas Zoo, located on Lake Wingra on the south side of Madison, Wisconsin. I used to ride my bicycle to the zoo and adjacent park when I was a student there at the Univ. of Wisconsin. I’d read or do homework there when the weather was nice. The south side of the lake is the University of Wisconsin Arboretum and I used to walk and ride my bicycle through that area as well.

The Henry Vilas Zoo is one of only 10 zoos in the U.S. with free admission. It also has free parking. The zoo has +65 different animals from 5 continents.

Giraffe at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin

Here’s the resident giraffe at the zoo. It’s eating lunch from what looked like a suet feeder that you use to feed the birds. Giraffes are native to Africa and are the tallest land animals on Earth, reaching 14-19 feet high, with a neck that can reach 8 feet long. Its skin can be 3/4″ thick.. The blood pressure of a giaraffe is about 110/70 at the brain — about normal for a large mammal, but around 220/180 at the heart. Giraffes can live up to 25 years in the wild and 30 years in captivity.

Orangutan at the Henry Vilas Zoo – pic. by Bill Steffen

This friendly orangutan came right up to the edge of the glass, pausing to eat fruits and vegetables. Orangutans are native to Indonesia and Malaysia. Males can reach 4 1/2 feet tall and weigh 165 pounds.

Flamingos at the Vilas Park Zoo

Here’s a pic. of the flamingos at the zoo. They varied in color from light pink to a more vibrant orange. A number of the flamingos were standing on one leg. Flamingos can be found throughout the Caribbean and in parts of Central and South America, Asia and southern Europe. Flamingos were native to Florida, but disappeared from the state around the turn of the 20th century.  After about 1925, people started captive colonies of flamingos in South Florida, including a breeding colony at Hialeah Park Race Track in the 1930s, which still remains.  A growing body of evidence over the years suggests that at least some American flamingos in Florida have arrived on their own from outside of the state.

Train at the Henry Vilas Zoo

There’s a little train that makes a short loop around part of the park.

Carousel at the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison WI

The zoo also has a working carousel. Rides operate daily from 10am – 4pm, and cost $3. They also have food, drink and ice cream, plus a very nice gift shop.

This is the conservatory at the zoo. There were birds flying around you while you walked through the warm and humid air.

There was a nice playground for the kids to play in at the zoo, including several slides.