Animal kingdom in Omaha

Animal kingdom in Omaha

Animal kingdom in Omaha

On a visit to see my brother who lives in Omaha, Nebraska, I had the opportunity to visit the Henry Doorly Zoo. With temperatures that fall below -10°C, who would want to visit a zoo, I wondered. However, despite the cold, there were several standing in line like us, waiting to buy tickets to the zoo.

With the zoo map out, we headed to the Lied Jungle. Surprisingly, we felt warm in the wet tropical rain forest setting, as we were enveloped in a blast of humidity and warmth, which brought us into America’s largest indoor rain forest.

The Lied Jungle showcases rain forests from South America, Asia and Africa. This exhibit is an amazing 80 feet tall, about the same as an eight-storey building, and a tree with its massive buttressed roots stood right in the middle. Monkeys, tapirs, macaws and pygmy hippos are just a few of the animals you will see in the Lied Jungle. Some of the animals from Asia included the Malayan tapir, watchful gibbons and small-clawed otters flipping in the stream below.

The Desert Dome located under a glazed geodesic dome, apparently the world’s largest indoor desert, is the highlight of the zoo and for Omaha. Built at a cost of $31.5 million, the dome is 230 feet in diameter, standing 13 storeys tall spanning over one acre. The dome has plant and animal life from three deserts: The Namib Desert of Africa, the Red Center of Australia and the Sonoran Desert of the southwest of the US.

The Sonoran Desert, which is found in the southwest US and northwest Mexico, had ocelots watching us as we looked at them, and a bunch of peccaries, who did not care, and wallowed in the desert dirt. We walked past bobcats, and then entered the hummingbird canyon, where we encountered a waterfall in the parched desert.

We then headed to the Aquarium, where the best section we enjoyed was the walk on the bottom of the ocean. Here, one can literally come nose to nose with sea turtles, as sharks circle above you in the 70 foot shark tunnel. One can discover polar regions, temperate oceans, coral reefs and the Amazon exploring this massive aquarium. The seahorse enclosures had me gaping at the little creatures as they gently swam to different parts of the coral to munch and hang on.

Another great enclosure was the gorilla exhibit. While I was glad that we stood behind the bullet-proof glass separator, one of the huge Silverback gorillas rushed up and banged against the glass aggressively.

The big cat enclosure had Siberian tigers and Malaysian tigers. The African lions drew the most attention, with the female nudging the male to his feet. He grumpily got up and then, as if on cue, roared menacingly, which reverberated through our very beings. Then when he was done, he grumpily flopped down all over again!