How the bird flu threat is affecting zoos in Illinois and Wisconsin


Last week, I took my eldest daughter’s class on a field trip to Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wis. I’ve been to this zoo several times and once again had a great day out with all the fabulous animals, but noticed a few major changes on my last trip.

“Birds have COVID”

Those are the exact words my daughter Ella said to me as we were getting ready to leave for the trip to the Henry Vilas Zoo. In fact, what she really said was; “just so you know mum, my teacher said we can’t see any birds at the zoo because they all have COVID”. Well, turns out Ella was wrong, the birds at the zoo don’t have COVID, but they’re off limits to visitors due to Highly Contagious Avian Influenza (HPAI), aka bird flu.

Temporary changes to the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wisconsin

Although the threat of HPAI is still high, the Henry Vilas Zoo Aviary will remain closed to visitors and you won’t see any of the zoo’s penguins, cranes, flamingos or chickens in their exhibits either. While this may be bad news for you and me, the bird species at Henry Vilas Zoo are doing very well and safe…

FYI, if you’re planning a trip to Henry Vilas Zoo anytime soon, there’s still a ton of cool animals to see, but if you’re hoping to see the zoo’s resident sloth named Slothra, she lives in the aviary and can’t accept visitors at this time. (It took us about 3 hours of walking around the zoo to finally ask a member of staff where she was).

Does the bird flu threat also affect other zoos?

I did a quick search of the most popular zoos in this area to see if their exhibits had also been affected by the bird flu threat, and here’s what I found…

All bird exhibits at Lincoln Zoological Park in Chicago, Illinois are closed until further notice, as is the Petting Zoo area…

I did not find any aviaries or show closures due to HPAI listed on Brookfield Zoo or Milwaukee County Zoo websites, but it might be a good idea to make a quick phone call to these zoos if you want to be sure before you go.

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