About Us

About Us

About Us

Mission of the Omaha Zoological Society

Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium's mission is to inspire, educate and engage people to serve as lifelong stewards for the conservation of animals and their habitats.

Our History


Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s Amphibian Conservation Area celebrates a milestone year with involvement in their first-ever repatriation effort for Western boreal toads and the release of their 100,000th amphibian into the wild during September.

In August, Hubbard Gorilla Valley reopened with an updated African Jungle theme and enhancements that reflect the immersive and educational style of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. It also added climbing structures and multiple options for variety of enrichment in different locations throughout, which encourages investigation and foraging by the Gorillas in a more complex setting.

In July, the Lee G. Simmons Aviary reopened with an elevated and on ground boardwalk and a special section dedicated to flamingo viewing, along with an indoor, nearly 1,000-square-foot flamingo shelter.

  • This project capped off the 10-year master plan that transformed Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium into a predominately immersive experience.
    • Other pieces of the master plan included the Scott African Grasslands, Scott Alaskan Adventure Splashgrounds, Bay Family Children’s Adventure Trails, Harper Event Center, Asian Highlands, and Owen Sea Lion Shores.

In July, the Zoo welcomed its one millionth visitor.

Two Harbor Seals joined the Sea Lions at Owen Sea Lion Shores in May.

The Darrald Harsh Wildlife Education Center opened in the spring at Wildlife Safari Park as a home base for all education programming.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, in collaboration with the Madagascar Biodiversity Partnership, and supported by the Arbor Day Foundation, planted its 4-millionth tree in Madagascar in celebration of Arbor Day.

  • For 12 years, these reforestation efforts have been focused on providing habitat for lemurs, the most threatened group of primates in the world. Habitat loss is one of the biggest threats to all of Madagascar's remaining lemur species.

A new permanent home for Stingrays at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium opened at the beginning of April.

In early 2021, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium and Autism Action Partnership launched a free all-inclusive mobile app experience, Omaha Zoo 4 All, to help prepare, engage and inspire visitors with autism or sensory needs, as well as their families.


Opening in the late summer and one acre in size, Owen Sea Lion Shores provides Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s Sea Lions with a state-of-the-art habitat featuring a 275-thousand-gallon pool, 40-foot-long underwater viewing window, natural boundaries, an underwater kelp forest and sandy beach areas. Visitors are welcomed by a grand sea arch, which is the largest single piece of rock work in the entire Zoo, and are "transported" to the Pacific Northwest coast.  

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium reopened its outdoor exhibits on June 1, 2020, after being closed to the public since March 16 due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

Lee G. Simmons Wildlife Safari Park in Ashland, Nebraska opened on March 27 as a limited drive-through experience due the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and experienced a record attendance, with over 400,000 visitors on Tuesday, Nov. 3.

  • This milestone more than doubled its attendance in 2019 and well eclipsed the previous record of 246,500 set during the Wildlife Safari Park’s inaugural 1998 season.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium closed to the public on March 16 based on the announcement of the state’s first case of community spread and Nebraska’s publication of guidance on events and public gatherings.

  • As the situation changed and decisions were made about reopening and events, the Zoo posted updates on a dedicated Zoo webpage and through social media.
  • People were encouraged to visit the Zoo’s social media channels for content to educate and entertain, and opportunities to virtually visit the Zoo.

On March 3, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium announced the Zoo’s 125th year anniversary celebration.

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium held Ghouls and Glow, a fun and not-so-frightening Halloween event for all ages. Over 400 larger-than-life lanterns, custom-made for the Zoo, illuminated the Bay Family’s Children’s Adventure Trails.

A male Indian rhinoceros calf, Marshall, was born on Friday, August 30, and was the first rhinoceros born in Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium’s 120-year history.

In July, the Zoo welcomed its one millionth visitor.

Asian Highlands opened in its entirety in the spring and debuted exhibits for snow leopard, sloth bear, Sichuan takin, Chinese goral and Amur tiger, as well as Yeti Camp, which featured new restrooms, a themed concessions area and seasonal gift shop.

Glacier Bay Landing opened to the public in the spring.

During the summer, the Suzanne and Walter Scott Aquarium undergoes renovations. The Zoo also makes way for a new Alaska exhibit.

A 20,000-pound stone Olmec head was installed in the Lied Jungle in February. It was a gift from Xalapa, Omaha’s sister city in Mexico, and it’s called “El Rey,” meaning “The King.”

Exhibits for red panda, white-naped cranes, Indian rhinos, tufted deer and Pere David's deer opened in the Asian Highlands in May 2018. The Lozier Giant Screen Theater reopened to the public in March after a renovation, which included a new projection system, screen, sound system, seats, flooring and lighting.

Construction began on Glacier Bay Landing, an Alaskan village located near Alaskan Adventure and the North Entrance, and Owen Sea Lion Shores.

The Zoo partners with Zipline Brewing Co. to launch the Zoo Brew Series – four limited-edition beers with a focus on the conservation efforts of four different animal species: red panda, African elephant, rockhopper penguin and snow leopard.

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 the Robert B. Daugherty 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.

The Zoo welcomed its 2-millionth visitor for the second time in history.

The first digital conservation issue of the Zoo's newsletter, ZooPrints, is published.

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.

The Zoo welcomed its 2-millionth visitor for the first time in history.

Construction on the African Grasslands, the largest project to date, continues.

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. It also 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 feet 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 occurred 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.


The Zoo, which has had more downs than ups, now houses 128 different animals and birds, according to Park and Recreation Superintendent Ralph McClintock.

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.


By 1917, the zoo’s collection included buffalo, deer, mountain goats, hogs, bears, bobcats, wolves, coyotes, badgers, opossums, fox, monkeys, alligators, a Mexican duck, pheasants, and “a freak five-legged cow.”


By 1901, the zoo featured native stone quarters for bears as well as pastures for deer, elk and buffalo. Stone cages set into the hillside displayed mountain lions, foxes, coyotes and badgers.


By 1899, Riverview Park covered more than one hundred acres, with increasing portions of the acreage devoted to the zoo.

The Park had an animal population that included deer, grizzly bear, two bison on loan from Colonel William F. Cody and 120 other animals.

Nels Anderson is named caretaker of animals at Riverview Park (1897-1912).

With the 1895 completion of land purchases for Riverview Park and then the acquisition of its first animals, the foundation for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium was set.

  • The first significant land purchases were completed by the city of Omaha in February 1895 and turned over to the Park Commissioners for improvements.
  • Soon thereafter, the addition of a collection of animals was reported, which included a moose ($150), a bear ($25), and an odd expense noted as "moving fish" ($1).

Riverview Park was founded by the City of Omaha.

Master Plan

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


Completed Projects

Gateway to the Wild Capital Campaign

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:

African Grasslands

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.

Children's Adventure Trails

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

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.

Upcoming Projects

Owen Sea Lion Shores

New sea lion exhibit 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.


Infrastructure Projects

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:

  • New Well: Installed near Simmons Aviary and Expedition Madagascar, a new well was completed and put into service on June 18, 2015.
  • Cold Storage: A new cold storage facility is set for completion this fall. Cold storage was formerly located behind the Desert Dome.
  • Maintenance Shop Road: Located near Pachyderm Hill, the gravel road provides employees access to the Zoo's maintenance shop. Completed August 2015.
  • Parking Lot Near Avian Support Center: A parking lot has been constructed near the new Avian Support Center to accommodate vehicles and foot traffic to the area. Completed September 2015.