A ton has changed in the past eight years at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium, and there’s still plenty new to come.
In 2010, new zoo Director Dennis Pate unveiled a 15-year master plan to transform the zoo, updating outdated areas such as the Cat Complex and regrouping the zoo’s animals by region of the world, not their genetic relatives.
That plan is well underway, with more than half the planned exhibits now open to the public, including the zoo’s largest exhibit, the African Grasslands, which helped the zoo crest 2 million annual visits for the first time. But there’s still plenty more on the horizon.
Here’s a look at what the zoo has built since then and what to watch for in the coming years.
Completed: May 2016
Cost: $73 million
Size: 28 acres
Species: African elephant, African lion, African pygmy goat, African spurred tortoise, bongo, cheetah, Egyptian goose, helmeted guineafowl, impala, klipspringer, leopard tortoise, meerkat, ostrich, pink-backed pelican, plains zebra, reticulated giraffe, rock hyrax, sable antelope, spur-winged goose, white rhinoceros, white-faced whistling duck, white stork, white-throated monitor lizard.
Completed: June 2016
Cost: $14 million
Size: 12,000 square feet
Location: East of Sue’s Carousel, north end of the zoo
Features: More than 70 bronze sculptures throughout a children’s splash park, including an 18-foot humpback whale.
BAY FAMILY CHILDREN’S ADVENTURE TRAILS
Completed: June 2017
Cost: Part of a $27.5 million expansion, including the Education Center and Holland Meadowlark Amphitheater
Size: 5 acres
Location: Immediately north of the Desert Dome, just inside the zoo’s north entrance on a former parking lot
Species: Goat, prairie dog, budgie, squirrel monkey and a variety of critters brought out by zoo staff.
Features: Treehouse, walk-behind waterfall, creek with skiff crossing, goat agility course, prairie dog tunnels, budgie aviary, larger-than-life insects, stroller coaster, food truck, comfort station and more.
Completed: Phase I now open, Phase II opening in spring 2019
Cost: $20 million
Size: 8 acres
Location: Previously undeveloped hillside north of Simmons Aviary
Species: Amur tiger (coming 2019), snow leopard (2019), Indian rhino, red panda, sloth bear (2019), white-naped crane, tufted deer, Père David’s deer and two kinds of goat-antelopes, takin (2019) and goral (2019).
Photos: Asian Highlands exhibit opens at Omaha's zoo
The Asian Highlands area, featuring a red panda, Indian rhinos, Père David's deer and more, opened to the public Thursday at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.
Estimated completion date: 2019
Estimated cost: $7 million
Size: 2 acres
Location: Former site of Red Barn Park
Features: Walk-up concession stand with 10 windows, seating and shade to accommodate about 500 people, restrooms, nursing station, children’s play area, open-air market space with merchandise carts, sweets shop, ticket booth and tram stop.
Estimated completion: Sea lions in spring 2020, polar bears TBA
Estimated cost: $22.5 million for sea lions; polar bears TBD
Size: 1.25 acres
Location: Former site of Bear Canyon stretching north of the Alaskan Adventure splash ground
Species: Sea lion and polar bear
Estimated completion date: TBA
Estimated cost: TBA
Size: 1.7 acres
Location: Former site of Cat Complex
Species: Central African forest dwellers, possibly including okapi, red river hog, bongo, expanded space for orangutan or others.
Estimated cost to date: $10.5 million
Includes: North gate, pedestrian pathways, service roads, utilities, landscape, railroad improvements and more.
Estimated completion date: Carousel Plaza open in 2019, exhibits delayed to future date TBA
Estimated cost: TBA
Size: 1 acre of exhibit space
Location: Far northwest corner of the zoo, behind Carousel Plaza
Species: Andean mountain dwellers, possibly including jaguar, puma, Andean bear, wolf, anteater, Chilean flamingo or others.