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Column

Zoo adventures

The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha makes for a fun weekend trip for people of all ages. My family has a long standing tradition of visiting the zoo whenever we can. It’s something my parents, siblings and I enjoyed as children and as adults.

For the past several years, we have been planning our trips in the middle of autumn, when the zoo isn’t as busy and the weather isn’t as hot. The animals seem to be more active when the temperature gauge isn’t pushing 90 degrees.

The Henry Doorly Zoo has been undergoing a lot of changes in the past several years. They are bringing new/updated enclosures for all of its animals. They have been working on separating animals according to their native region as opposed to having all of the big cats in one place, for example. The new exhibits are wonderful, but I have to admit I miss being able to see my favorite, tigers, right next to my second favorite, the lions.

The tigers are still housed in their cat complex; however, half of the area was under construction so we could only see a few of the animals. I got to see my favorite tiger, Bella, in her outdoor enclosure. She gave birth to three cubs two years ago and they are old enough now they have to be separated. She seemed to still be looking for the cubs a little bit as she ran around her space.

The zoo’s new Asian Highlands portion should be completed next summer. The first phase opened this year, so we could see some of the animals already. The second phase will include the new tiger habitat, so hopefully I’ll be able to see more of my tigers then, as well as the snow leopards.

The highlight of the day was the cheetahs. Normally, the felines are hard to spot, but the zoo has done an excellent job with their new habitat. They have plenty of cover and places to hide, but it is set up in a way that you can still get a good view of them. Oftentimes, they sit out in the open enjoying the sunshine, and that is the best view you could ever ask for. Six cheetah cubs were born last winter at the zoo’s Wildlife Safari Park. The cubs had been moved to the zoo grounds for the summer and the nearly year-old cubs were fun to watch.

The gorilla house had an unusual occurrence for me. I always bring my camera to take some photos while at the zoo. I’ve gotten some really cool closeups. Omaha has been home to some pretty interesting primates over the years. My husband, Tim, and I had just entered the gorilla pavilion. There was a family with a few young boys giggling at the male gorilla. He was a beautiful silverback male. You could tell he was agitated somehow. I stopped a few feet from him and took some nice close up shots. He turned and glanced at me, then turned away like I wasn’t there. A moment later he stood up, arms above his head and pounded on the glass right at my head and then ran to another part of the habitat. There was thick glass between us, his paws left only a few dirty streaks, but it still startled me. I’ve never had that happen to me before. Tim and I decided to move on after that. The baby gorilla was much more amiable to pictures than the “King Kong” wannabe.

It was a wonderful fall day at the zoo. We were blessed it was only chilly in the morning, but we were greeted by the sun by mid morning and actually had to shed some layers by lunch time. The zoo will be so different next fall when we make our annual trek. I can’t wait to see what next year will bring.

Contact Pam Pratt
at pampratt@newtondailynews.com  

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