Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium has set an annual attendance record this year, and it's only October.
The previous high was set in 1995, when 1,602,831 people visited the zoo. That total was passed Friday, said zoo spokeswoman Dawn Ream.
Zoo officials are citing several contributing factors for the high attendance. An unexpected bonus came with TripAdvisor ranking it the No. 1 zoo in the country, which helped draw out-of-town visitors.
Construction didn't stop people from coming and resulted in positive changes, including the renovated Scott Aquarium, the new Prehistoric Play Park and Fossil Dig Site, the new Guest Services building and additional parking.
Baby animals also were popular. Births included Bailey the giraffe calf, Biscuit the zebra foal, Tank the sea lion pup, Oscar the Asian small-clawed otter pup and a king penguin chick.
The zoo's several indoor exhibits give visitors plenty to see when it's cold or wet outside. But this year's warm weather, starting so early in spring, really helped improve numbers. For example, 2009 held the March attendance record of 106,054 visitors. March 2012 attracted a whopping 164,729 visitors.
Perhaps the fact that there was no flooding this year could be added to the list of positives.
Last year's crowds were held down by the Missouri River flood waters that closed roads for the summer, making it difficult to get to the zoo. And many people mistakenly thought the zoo was affected by flooding.
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