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In 2010, new zoo Director Dennis Pate unveiled a 15-year master plan to transform the zoo, updating outdated areas such as the Cat Complex and regrouping the zoo’s animals by region of the world, not their genetic relatives.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.


506984 BJSzoo

Large crowds explored the African Grasslands exhibit at the Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium on opening weekend in 2016. 

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.



Alaskan Adventure splash park includes 75 bronze sculptures, many of which have have built-in water features that mimic actions that the animals make in the wild.

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.



A three-story tall treehouse at the Children’s Adventure Trails exhibit features a long slide. 

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.



A red panda at the Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium’s new Asian Highlands exhibit.

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).



The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium's new Carousel Plaza will open in 2019, replacing Red Barn Park with concessions, restrooms and other amenities.

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.



A polar bear at the Henry Doorly Zoo in 2009.

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



Amoi, a female orangutan that is 7 months old, is seen here at the Henry Doorly Zoo in 2003.

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.



Amoi, a female orangutan that is 7 months old, is seen here at the Henry Doorly Zoo in 2003.

Estimated cost to date: $10.5 million

Includes: North gate, pedestrian pathways, service roads, utilities, landscape, railroad improvements and more.


840379 zoobear2

Freckles, an Andean bear, at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Durham's Bear Canyon.

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.