Exciting things were happening at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in 2017, including new exhibits, new animals and education and conservation milestones. Below is a recap of some of the big events that happened at Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium the past year:
10 – Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium License Plates Launched
In March, Nebraska drivers were presented with the option to have an Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium license plate. The Zoo-themed design features an iconic African bull elephant set against a dusk sky. The specialty plate can be purchased on the DMV website at www.nebraska.gov/dmv.splate.index.cgi
9 – Zoo’s Amphibian Center Reintroduces Two Critically Endangered Species
In July, The Zoo’s Amphibian Conservation Area shipped 10,500 critically endangered Puerto Rican crested toad tadpoles for reintroduction in Rio Encantado – Ciales near Manati, Puerto Rico. The eggs hatched at Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium. Four breeding pairs were injected with hormones during amplexus, or mating, to increase fertility.
Puerto Rican crested toads, the only toad species native to Puerto Rico, are listed as critically endangered on the International Union of Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
For the first time ever, 82 of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s Amphibian Conservation Area’s dusky gopher frogs were released in a wildlife management area in southern Mississippi in September. With possibly less than 75 adults left in the wild, dusky gopher frogs are one of the most critically endangered frog species in the United States.
The released froglets were produced through an in-vitro fertilization procedure. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium has been working with the frogs through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ dusky gopher frog Species Survival Plan since 2004. The Zoo has a population of over 120, which is the largest in the country.
8 – Animal Births
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium had exciting animal births this year. Animals born in 2017 include:
7 – Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium Hosts “National Geographic Photo Ark”
From April 4 to September 4, the Zoo hosted National Geographic’s Photo Ark exhibit. The project is committed to documenting every species living in the world’s zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. Joel Sartore, a world-renowned wildlife photographer, started the ambitious project, hoping to inspire people to not only care but also help protect these animals. The exhibition highlights more than 50 of Sartore’s images, some of which were taken at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.
6 – The Zoo Takes Big Steps in Reducing Single-Use Plastics
In 2017, the Zoo joined aquariums across the nation in reducing single-use plastics as part of Aquarium Conservation Partnership’s “In Our Hands” campaign. Beginning in July, Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium began implementing paper straws instead of plastic at some of its eateries. Also, the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium gift shop is no longer using plastic bags.
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is a founding member of Aquarium Conservation Partnership, a coalition of 19 United States aquariums taking action together to advance ocean and freshwater conservation. The primary goal of the partnership is to reduce ocean and freshwater plastic pollution.
5 – The Dick and Mary Holland Meadowlark Theater Opens to Guests
On June 15, the Dick and Mary Holland Meadowlark Theater opened to the public. The theater features a Birds of Flight Program highlighting 15 of the Zoo’s bird species, including Harris Hawks, Guinea Fowl, Red Front Macaws and Blue and Gold Macaws. All 35 birds participating in the program are fully flighted birds that fly various paths and demonstrate specific trained behaviors for the audience.
4 – Education Center Opens Doors to Students
In July, the Zoo’s new Education Center officially opened and became home to year-round programming, including the Zoo’s full-time high school, kindergarten and after school programs. The Education Center houses seven classrooms as well as lockers, kitchens and lunch areas for students. The space includes innovative features such as a small auditorium with retractable bleachers and an outdoor Adventure Classroom. Administrative areas for the Zoo’s education staff are also located within the building. The building provides educational space to more than 9,000 student visitors annually. The Zoo’s administration and Foundation offices are located within the Education Center.
The Education Center is built to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. The building uses the highest efficiency of insulation, mechanics and lighting, including motion censored lights and utilization of natural lighting. Fritted glass throughout the building featuring silhouettes of Nebraska native species helps to prevent bird strikes and lower cooling requirements.
3 – Zoo Hits Two Million Attendance Mark for the Second Year Straight
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium welcomed its two millionth visitor for the second year in a row on December 2. The guest of honor was greeted by Zoo staff and animal ambassadors and received a free Zoo membership, a behind-the-scenes tour and a Zoo-themed gift basket. 2016 was the first year to reach two million visitors.
The Zoo’s record attendance numbers have had a significant impact on both the City of Omaha and the State of Nebraska’s economies. The most recent results of the Zoo’s Economic Impact Study, conducted for 2016, show record numbers of economic impact. The 2016 Economic Impact Study results reveal the economic impact to the City of Omaha to be $267.01 million. This includes $109.44 million in labor income paid to an estimated 2,849 workers employed at either Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium or businesses throughout the Omaha economy. The additional economic activity in Omaha due to Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium generates $4.16 million in local sales, use and lodging tax revenues for Omaha.
Study results reveal Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s economic impact to the State of Nebraska to be $216.80 million, which includes $78.86 million in labor income. There was also a tax revenue impact of $10.20 million in state sales, use and lodging taxes.
2 – Louie, a Bull African Elephant, Arrives from Toledo
On June 23, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium welcomed Louie, a 14 year-old bull African elephant from the Toledo Zoo. Louie was brought to Omaha on a recommendation of the African Elephant Species Survival Plan through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. He has the potential to breed with the Zoo’s five female resident elephants in order to help sustain the genetic diversity of this endangered species’ population in zoos. Louie lives in African Grasslands with a herd of five other African elephants, all females.
1 – Children’s Adventure Trails
The new Children’s Adventure Trails exhibit opened in June 2017. This interactive exhibit highlights kids’ learning through play in nature. The children’s 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 guest to learn through exploring. Signage throughout the area encourage social emotional, cognitive and physical exercises in relation to activities throughout the trails. “Choose Your Adventure!” signs provide different options to jumpstart fun for kids of all ages.
Children’s Adventure Trails has plenty of opportunity for children to interact with animals. They can engage in parallel play with goats in Foothill Trails, crawl through a tunnel and pop their head up in Prairie Dog Trails, play alongside small primates in elevated shoots that run parallel to the Treehouse play areas and feed budgies on Outback Trail. Children’s Adventure Trails is one of the Zoo’s most interactive exhibits. Animal Ambassadors play a key role in the fun by bringing animals to Zoo guests, allowing them to interact without barriers in animal demonstration areas throughout the exhibit.
Other highlights of the $27.5 million project include a 250-foot long fully interactive water stream, a play area featuring enlarged objects such as an oversized chrysalis, a 40-foot-wide by three story tall Treehouse equipped with a shipwreck slide and climbing nets and a Baby Care Station.