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Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is located in Nebraska, United States. It has been operating since 1894.

The zoo has a number of record breaking habitats including the world’s largest indoor desert, the world’s largest nocturnal house and America’s largest indoor rainforest.

Over 2 million people visit the zoo each year.

Attractions


Skyfari

This aerial ride takes visitors high above Omaha’s Henry Doorly zoo across the African grasslands habitats.


Train

A train transports visitors between two stops within the Henry Doorly zoo.


Sue’s Wildlife Carousel

Take a ride on one of the 30 animal statues on this carousel.


Tram

This land tram moves visitors between four stops around the zoo.

Alaskan Adventure

This splash park features 75 bronze sculptures depicting species such as salmon, puffins, sea lions, brown bears and orcas. These are coupled with water effects that children can play in.


Lozier IMAX® Theater

The massive 61 foot tall by 83-foot-wide screens shows superb IMAX movies in both 2D and 3D.

Location

Omaha,

Nebraska,

United States

Year Opened

1894

Land Size

53ha (130 acres)

History


Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo began life as a collection of animals in Riverview Park which was founded in 1894. This grew to 120 animals by 1898. These included bears, bison and deer.


The WPA built new cat and bear exhibits at the zoo during the 1930s.


The Omaha Zoological Society was founded to manage the zoo during 1952.


A donation of $750,000 by Margaret Hitchcock Doorly came with a stipulation that the zoo be named in memory of her husband, Henry Doorly, who was the chairman of the World Publishing company.


Throughout 1965 the Omaha Zoological Society underwent a re-organization to a non-profit organization which maintains, plans and operates the zoo for the city. The first phase of their development including bear grottos, gorilla and orangutan exhibits along with the Ak-sar-ben Nature Kingdom.


1968 saw the first run of the Omaha Zoo Railroad. It was also in this year that pachyderm hill opened.


A swimming pool buried in 1944 was rediscovered in 1970. By 1972 this had been renovated and opened as the Owen Sea Lion Pavilion.


This was the beginning of a significant period of development throughout the 1970s. This saw the Owen Swan Valley and the primate research building completed in 1973. The diet kitchen and classrooms were built in 1974. During 1977 the largest cat complex in North America opened and the period ended with the 1979 opening of the hospital and nursery.


1981 saw the giraffe and hoofstock complex opened.


By 1983 the zoo opened the world’s second largest free flight aviary.


During 1984 the museum was converted in to a 70,000 gallon salt water aquarium.


1985 saw the renovation of the gorilla and orangutan buildings which were renamed to honor the Owen family.


During 1986 the zoo completed construction on World-Herald Square and First Tier Wolf Woods.


The Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Pavilion was completed, as was the US West Plaza and a new main entrance.


1988 saw the zoo selected to participate in the black footed ferret breeding program with a new building opened to house this in 1989.


Duraham Family’s Bear Canyon was dedicated during 1989. In the same year Doorly’s pride which is a sculpture of 12 lions was installed at the zoo’s entry.


A children’s petting zoo known as dairy world opened in 1990 the same year a test-tube tiger was born at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.


The next year would see the first artificially inseminated tiger born at the zoo as well as the opening of the Birthday House.


1992 saw the largest indoor rainforest in the world at that time, The Lied Jungle® opened along with Duraham’s Tree Tops Restaurant and the completion of Simmons plaza at the entry.


During 1993 the old aquarium closed allowing construction on the new one to begin. The new aquarium, the Walter and Suzanne Scott Kingdoms of the Seas Aquarium.


1996 saw the opening of the Bill and Berniece Centre for Conservation and Research. This was followed in 1997 by the opening of the Lozier IMAX® 3D Theatre.


The Garden of the senses opened in 1998 as did a new diet kitchen.


Sue’s carousel opened in 1999. A Komodo dragon exhibit also visited the zoo in this year.


2000 saw a new North Entrance Plaza completed with a gift shop and entrance plaza. Koalas also visited Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and okapis arrived making the zoo one of few in America to host them.


In 2001 the zoo completed cheetah valley along with new bongo and tree kangaroo exhibits. They were also visited by a white alligator.


During 2002 The Desert Dome opened as the world’s largest indoor desert. The next year saw the completion of Eugene T. Mahoney Kingdoms of the Night which is located under the dome and is the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit with the largest indoor swamp as a feature.


Hubbard Gorilla Valley opened in 2004 followed by Hubbard Orangutan Forest the next year. 2005 also saw a giraffe feeding station open.


A new building for guest services, two additional gates and a walk-through budgie exhibit opened during 2006.


Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom pavilion became the Exploration Station during 2007.


2008 saw the opening of the Berniece Grewcock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion.


An aerial tram, the skyfari opened in 2009.


May 2010 saw Expedition Madagascar, a walk-through lemur habitat opened.


The renovated Aquarium was opened during 2012. This year also saw the Red Barn Park area updated with a prehistoric play park and fossil dig site.


2013 saw the zoo open a temporary animatronic dinosaur exhibit, Dinosaurs Alive! Johnny Rosenblatt’s Infield at the Zoo also opened in this year. It is a recognition of Rosenblatt baseball stadium which the Henry Doorly Zoo site now encompasses.


Stingray Beach opened in 2014 which was the same year that camel rides commenced.


2016 saw the opening of two major exhibits for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo. The first was their largest to date, the $73 million African Grasslands exhibit which includes six elephants rescued from Swaziland.


The other was Alaskan Adventure, a splashground complete with sculptures of the animals of Alaska’s coast.

In 2017 the zoo opened the Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails. This area features a range of hands on learning experiences.

During 2018 the first stage of the Asian highlands exhibit opened with habitats for red pandas, cranes, rhino and deer.

2019 saw the zoo open the second stage of the Asian highlands exhibit with snow leopards, sloth bears, sichuan takins and amur tigers going on display.

The most recent exhibit at the zoo is the sealion shores which opened in September 2020.

Main Exhibits


Desert Dome

Under the world’s largest glazed geodesic dome live the animals of the Namib desert, Australia’s red centre and the Sonoran Desert.


Hubbard Orangutan Forest

Rising 65 feet in to the air are two man made banyan trees providing the perfect home for the orangutans.


Lied Jungle®

Inside the lied jungle is one of America’s largest indoor rainforests where you can watch monkey’s, tapirs, pygmy hippos and gibbons as they explore.


Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Pavilion

This hands-on exhibit introduces you to your journey around the zoo with some small animal exhibits such as tarantulas and snakes.


Simmon’s Aviary

The world’s second largest aviary is home to over 500 birds along with the tufted deer. It includes flamingos, storks, cranes, swans and ducks.


Expedition Madagascar

Some of the world’s rarest animals come from Madagascar and her is where you can meet them. This exhibit links to the zoo’s conservation projects on this island. It also includes a seasonally available lemur walkway where you can be in with the lemurs.


Berniece Grewcock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion

A walk-through butterfly exhibit provides views of butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. Meanwhile the insect exhibit features mantis, scorpions, stick insects and beetles amongst others.


Hubbard Gorilla Valley

This three-acre (1.2ha) gorilla exhibit allows you to see gorillas roaming free in a cutting-edge facility.


Kingdoms of the Night

The world’s largest nocturnal exhibit is the home of alligators, beavers, fossa’s, snakes and more. It also feature’s the world’s largest indoor swamp.


Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium

The largest aquarium in a zoo is at the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo. Here you can walk through the 21m (70ft) long shark tunnel and watch these fearsome creatures swim above your head. It is also the home of Antarctic penguins.

African Grasslands

The largest habitat to be created in the Henry Doorly Zoo’s history is the African grasslands. Visitors journey through an African kopje with meerkats, klipspringers, monitors and more before emerging on the grasslands. Here they can meet elephants, giraffe, zebra, antelope, rhino and more.

Stop by the African goat kraal where you can pet and brush African pygmy goats.

The journey continues across the lake home to pink backed pelicans and then on to the former Pachyderm hill where cheetah, African lions, bongo and sable antelope can now be viewed.

Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails

This interactive exhibit encourages learning through play. Interactive elements can be found near habitats for prairie dogs, goats and the budgie encounter.

Asian Highlands

The Asian highlands allows you to journey up the hill passing animals from Asia including red pandas, Asian one horned rhinos, cranes, tufted deers, sloth bears, Amur tigers, snow leopards, sichuan takins and gorals.

Owen Sea Lion Shores

This habitat provides the sea lions with a state of the art home. Visitors can see these animals both above and below the water.

References

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Website – http://www.omahazoo.com/

Visit Omaha – https://www.visitomaha.com/things-to-do/omaha-zoo/

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