Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium's mission is to inspire, educate and engage people to serve as lifelong stewards for animals, their habitats and their conservation.
The Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails, a five-acre outdoor adventure area with hands-on learning experiences, and the Dick and Mary Holland Meadowlark Theater, featuring a Birds of Flight program, opened to the public in June. In July, the Zoo also opened a new Education Center, which provides educational space to more than 9,000 students annually including the Zoo’s full-time high school, kindergarten and after school programs.
Six African elephants arrived from Swaziland, South Africa in March and made their home in the African Grasslands, the largest project in Zoo history at $73 million and 28 acres. In May, the African Grasslands opened to the public. In June, Alaskan Adventure, a $14-million splashgrounds area featuring more than 75 bronze sculptures of animals native to the Alaskan coastline, opened to the public.
Stingray Beach opened to the public. The seasonal interactive exhibit, located by Sue's Carousel, provides Zoo visitors the opportunity to touch and feed cownose, Atlantic and Southern stingrays.
Construction on Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium's largest project to date, the African Grasslands, began.
Dinosaurs Alive! The Lost Valley opened to the public. The temporary interactive exhibit featured 15 life-size, animatronic dinosaurs, two of which could be controlled by Zoo visitors. The exhibit, located by the Owen Sea Lion Pavilion, was open from Memorial Day through fall 2013.
A videoboard was installed above Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium's main entrance redemption gate. This digital means of communication promotes new exhibits, events and other Zoo news using static images and videos.
Durham's TreeTops Restaurant was renovated. The restaurant now features digital menu boards, as well as new signage and seating to carry out the jungle theme.
Johnny Rosenblatt's Infield at the Zoo, a commemoration to Rosenblatt Stadium, was complete. A ribbon cutting was held to officially kick off its opening to the public. The ribbon was cut by John Boyer, president, Omaha Zoological Society Board of Directors; Steve Rosenblatt; Jack Diesing Jr., chairman/president, College World Series of Omaha Inc.; Gov. Dave Heineman; Mayor Jim Suttle; Garry Gernandt, Omaha City Council, District 4; and Dennis Pate, the Zoo's executive director and CEO. Josh Rosenblatt, great grandson of Johnny Rosenblatt, threw the first pitch at the attraction.
Rosenblatt Stadium's media tower was installed at Wildlife Safari Park. It's now called Crane Meadows Viewing Tower.
Renovations to the Main Gift Shop and parking lot, including the addition of over 1,000 more parking stalls, was completed.
The newly renovated Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium opened on April 5, 2012. The new Main Entrance opened with new Ticketing Gates, Guest Services and Redemption Gates. Construction on the Gateway to the Wild capital campaign continued. The updated Red Barn Park area was completed with the new Prehistoric Play Park and Fossil Dig site.
The Omaha Steaks® Grill and Patio, located between Durham TreeTops Restaurant and the Lied Jungle, opened. The Durham Lodge and Birthday House renovations were completed. Construction began on the capital campaign, Gateway to the Wild, including the renovations of the Scott Aquarium and addition of the Education and Conference Center at the Scott Aquarium.
Expedition Madagascar, featuring the only lemur walkway, opened to the public on May 7, 2010. Expedition Madagascar showcases the conservation work Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium dedicates to Madagascar.
Skyfari, an aerial tram opened to the public.
Berniece Grewcock Butterfly and Insect Pavilion opens. Construction on Skyfari and Expedition Madagascar begins.
Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Pavilion is transformed into the Exploration Station. Construction on the Butterfly and Insect Pavilion begins.
A new Guest Services building and two additional gates at the main entrance opened. The Hubbard Research wing expansion to the Grewcock Center for Conservation and Research opened. Budgie Encounter, a walk-through exhibit, opened.
Hubbard Orangutan Forest, the best view in the Zoo, opened in two phases in May and August. A giraffe feeding station opened in the spring. Construction began on an addition to the Grewcock Center for Conservation and Research.
Hubbard Gorilla Valley, where gorillas roam free, opened. A tower with two high-capacity elevators to take visitors from the main level of the Zoo near the Desert Dome down 44' to Hubbard Gorilla Valley opened.
Eugene T. Mahoney Kingdoms of the Night®, the world’s largest nocturnal exhibit, opened beneath the Desert Dome. It features caverns, bat caves and the world’s largest indoor swamp.
The Desert Dome, the world’s largest indoor desert, opened to over 1.5 million visitors. This facility exhibits three different deserts of the world, the Namib, the Central Australian and the Sonoran, under a glazed geodesic dome that is the largest of its kind. Construction began on Hubbard Gorilla Valley.
Cheetah Valley opened. New bongo and new tree kangaroo exhibits were constructed. The Zoo hosted a traveling white alligator exhibit.
The new North Entrance Plaza was completed featuring a new gift shop, warehouse, entrance plaza and visitor gazebo. Joining the Okapi Species Survival Program, allowed the Zoo to be one of only 18 zoos in North America to display rare okapi. A traveling koala exhibit visited the Zoo.
Sue's Carousel, a 36' carousel featuring 30 wild animals and horses, opened near Dairy World. Construction began on the world's largest Desert Dome. The Zoo hosted a temporary Komodo Dragon exhibit.
The Garden of the Senses, a therapeutic formal garden area where guests can see, hear, touch and smell plants and surrounding elements, opened. The Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park & Wildlife Safari, 22 miles west of Omaha’s Zoo at Nebraska’s 1-80 Exit 426, opened. A new diet kitchen was completed. Construction began on a new pathology lab and keepers lounge.
Lozier IMAX® 3D Theater opened. (Renovations to the Theater occured in 2018, and it is now called the Lozier Giant Screen Theater.)
The Bill and Berniece Grewcock Center for Conservation and Research (CCR) opened. Timu, the world’s first test-tube gorilla moved to Omaha’s Zoo.
The Walter and Suzanne Scott Kingdoms of the Seas Aquarium opened and the Zoo had more than 1.6 million visitors. Land was acquired for an off-site breeding facility and drive-through park. Construction began on the Lozier IMAX® Theater. The Zoo participated in the propagation of the world’s first test-tube gorilla birth (Timu was born at the Cincinnati Zoo).
The Union Pacific Engine House for the Omaha Zoo Railroad was completed.
The old aquarium was closed and construction of the new aquarium began. The Zoo received two AAZPA awards: the Conservation Award for its black-footed ferret management program and the Significant Achievement Award for the Lied Jungle. The world’s first artificially-inseminated gaur calf was born at the Zoo.
The Lied Jungle®, the world’s largest indoor rainforest at that time and Durham's TreeTops Restaurant and Education Center opened. Simmons Plaza, near the main entrance, was completed.
The Birthday House, a building for children’s birthday parties and education classes opened. The world’s first artificially-inseminated tiger was born at the Zoo.
Dairy World, featuring a children’s petting zoo, educational exhibits and concession area, opened. (Currently, this is the construction site for Carousel Plaza.) The world’s first test-tube tiger was born at the Zoo.
Durham Family’s Bear Canyon was dedicated. Doorly’s Pride, a heroic bronze sculpture of a pride of 12 lions, was installed in the entry plaza area. The Zoo received the prestigious AAZPA Bean Award for its long-term gaur propagation efforts. The black-footed ferret building constructed.
Construction began on the $15 million Lied Jungle®. The Zoo was selected as one of three sites for the endangered black-footed ferret breeding program. The Zoo’s greenhouse was built near the maintenance shop.
Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Pavilion, a hands-on education building, was completed and US West Plaza, a visitor services area, opened. A new main entrance at the south end of the parking lot was opened.
World-Herald Square was completed and First Tier Wolf Woods opened. The maintenance building and haybarn were relocated to the northeast area of the Zoo.
The gorilla and orangutan buildings were completely renovated and named in honor of the Owen Family.
A 70,000 gallon salt-water aquarium opened in what had been the museum.
The world's second largest walk-through aviary opened, Lee G. Simmons Free-Flight Aviary.
The giraffe and hoofstock complex opened.
The hospital and nursery opened.
The largest Cat Complex in North America opened.
The new diet kitchen and educational classrooms were completed.
Owen Swan Valley and the Primate Research Building were completed.
The Ak-sar-ben waterfall was constructed. In August, the 1916 public swimming pool that had been buried in 1944, and rediscovered in 1970, was reconstructed and became the Owen Sea Lion Pavilion complete with a new concession building, public restrooms and a gazebo.
With help from Union Pacific, 2 1/2 miles of track was laid through the Zoo. Omaha’s Zoo Railroad made its inaugural run in July. Eppley Pachyderm Hill was opened in November on the old baseball diamond site.
Construction of Ak-sar-ben Nature Kingdom, eventually named Red Barn Park, was completed and the area opened to Zoo guests.
The Omaha Zoological Society was reorganized to plan, construct, operate and maintain the Zoo for the city as a non-profit organization. The first phase of the Zoo was dedicated to Henry Doorly. The bear grottos, gorilla, orangutan buildings and Ak-sar-ben Nature Kingdom were part of this phase.
Margaret Hitchcock Doorly donated $750,000 to the Zoo with the stipulation that the Zoo be named after her late husband, Henry Doorly, chairman of the World Publishing Company.
New exhibits and other improvements were made to support the growing number of animals in the park. In 1952, the Omaha Zoological Society was organized to improve the Zoo and to provide administrative help to the City.
New cat and bear exhibits were built by WPA.
New cat cages were donated by Gould Dietz.
The park had an animal population that included deer, grizzly bear, two bison on loan from Colonel William F. Cody and 120 other animals.
Riverview Park was founded by the City of Omaha.
The Master Plan, which was developed in June 2010, is the culmination of many months of work. It incorporates visitor experiences and amenities, state-of-the-art animal habitats that reflect the latest husbandry knowledge, and a place to instruct the next generation of wildlife biologists.
The Master Plan provides for a dedicated service path around the Zoo with access to animal holding areas that leave the sidewalks to our guests and addresses steep walkways. Older vintage exhibits will be replaced with exhibits measured in partial or whole acres for large animals that live in social groups such as elephants, rhinos and lions. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Director and CEO Dennis Pate said, “We are all excited about the possibilities of building on a great zoo.”
Master Plan Executive Summary
Master Plan Conceptual Framework
Gateway to the Wild was included in Phase 1 of the Master Plan. This $33-million campaign enhanced the visitor experience with the addition and improvement of the following guest amenities:
The African Grasslands is a $73-million project that spans 28 acres and is the largest project undertaken in the Zoo's history. It has transformed the eastern boundary of the Zoo, from the former Grevy's zebra exhibit up to Pachyderm Hill, once home to African elephants and white and Indian rhinos.
The African Grasslands features breathtaking panoramic views of grasslands and African wildlife. There is an extensive use of grasses, acacia-like trees, kopjes and minimal visual barriers and includes twenty-five new buildings and structures.
A considerable amount of time has been spent on the experience Zoo guests will encounter. This project includes new restrooms, concessions and ADA accessible pathways. Click here for more information.
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium opened Children’s Adventure Trails in June 2017. This interactive play area sits on five acres of land and combines outdoor adventure with hands-on learning opportunities. The exhibit is made up of a variety of habitats, interactive animal exhibits and climbing areas allowing guests to learn through exploring. There are three distinct areas within the site: Children’s Adventure Trails, the Dick and Mary Holland Meadowlark Theater and the Education Building. Click here for more information.
Asian Highlands will transport Zoo guests on an immersive journey through Asia, ranging from the grasslands of Northern India, though the Himalayan Mountains, to the boreal forests of northeastern China. Set on an undeveloped eight acres inside Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Asian Highlands is a $20 million project. This is a total immersion exhibit set along the main path just north of the Aviary. Guests will encounter a unique landscape and diverse collection of animals including red panda, white-naped crane, sloth bear, Amur tiger, snow leopard, takin, goral, Indian rhino, tufted deer and Pere David’s deer. Most of the listed species are very cold tolerant and will be available for viewing year-round.
Expected completion of the Indian rhino, Pere David’s deer, crane, red panda and tufted deer areas is summer 2018. Expected completion of the sloth bear, tiger, snow leopard, takin, Yeti Camp and Kid’s Discovery Trail is summer 2019. Click here for more information.
New sea lion and polar bear exhibits surrounding a North American coastal themed children’s splash zone and play area. This will be located adjacent to the existing carousel area on the site formally occupied by bears, swan valley and points north. This area will also include family changing areas, a café with food and drink, and trellis sheltered seating for parents and families.
Expanding on the success of adjacent Hubbard Gorilla Valley, this project will add Central Africa forest dwellers such as okapi, red river hogs, and bongo, as an immersive outdoor forest trail experience. This will also include enhancing the existing gorilla food service and restroom cluster along with a new outdoor seating plaza.
As the Zoo continues to grow, so does the continuous need to maintain and improve roads, pathways, utilities and other building support. Recent infrastructure projects include: