The cancellation of March Madness and the closing of Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium through the end of April has left a basketball-size hole in the lives of many in Omaha. Nothing can replace the thrill of the major sporting event or the joy of visiting one of the best zoos in the country, but maybe the World-Herald's zoo animal bracket can distract from the disappointment.
In honor of the zoo's 125th anniversary, we put together an animal bracket and need your help to decide the winner. So, stare at some photos of interesting animals, vote for your favorites and take a break from worry.
Welcome to the final round.
Valens the snow leopard vs. Marshall the rhino
Valens: Born May 22, 2019, Valens and his sister Kennedi can be found lounging in the Asian Highlands Exhibit. Valens’ name has Greek origins meaning “strong and victorious.”
Thirty-seven snow leopards have been born at the zoo in 20 litters through a partnership with 56 other accredited zoos in gene diversity and breeding planning. Read more about the siblings.
Marshall: Born Aug. 30, 2019, Marshall was the first rhino born at the zoo and he is the 82nd Indian rhino born in the country. A century ago there were only 200 Indian rhinos left in the world. Today there are 3,500 to 3,600.
Rhinos have a 16-month gestation period and can typically give birth every three years, which can make population growth challenging. Read more
Valens vs. Marshall
Sabal the red panda: Sabal is the zoo’s resident red panda. Red pandas’ fur matches the moss found on trees where they live in the mountain forests of Nepal, India, Bhutan, China and Myanmar. There are less than 2,500 red pandas left in the wild due to habitat loss and fragmentation, illegal trade, disease and climate change.
Callee the African elephant: Callee came to Omaha as part of an initiative that brought six elephants to the zoo in an effort to breed the species domestically. The male elephant arrived at the Omaha zoo from the Birmingham Zoo in Alabama in May 2019. Zoo officials are optimistic about Callee’s breeding potential. Read more
Zuri the western lowland gorilla: After a period of being raised by zookeepers because of breastfeeding problems with her mother, in late 2019, Zuri was reintegrated with her family in the Hubbard Gorilla Valley. That has led to some pestering and roughhousing from her older brother Kgosi.
"He’s kind of like a mean big brother,” said Dennis Pate, the zoo’s director and CEO. Read more about the siblings.
Cayenne the macaw: Cayenne spurred a 21-hour search when she flew the coup in 2018 after being startled by a blimp that flew overhead during a Birds of Flight show. The search team eventually found her getting yelled at by a squirrel in a tree just south of the zoo. She made it home safely and immediately cuddled up with her sister Cali. Read more
Zoe the giraffe: Born April 16, 2019, Zoe the giraffe was named after 8-year-old Zoe Raber of Lincoln who died April 24 after battling stage 4 brain cancer. Relatives said she took a stuffed baby giraffe to every surgery and every MRI and that her room was filled with stuffed animal giraffes. Read more
Ngintaka the perentie lizard: Ngintaka is 8 feet long, eats other lizards and its name means “giant lizard spirit.” Omaha’s zoo is one of only three in the U.S. to have one. So little is known about the species that the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the perentie as “Data Deficient.” Read more
Photos: 106 of our favorite shots of Omaha’s Henry Doorly zoo creatures through the years
Through the years, Omaha's Henry Doorly zoo has cared for animals as large as elephants and as small as tree frogs, offering the public a broad look at the earth's biodiversity.