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Henry Doorly Zoo anticipates a successful year

Published: Feb. 2, 2021 at 5:47 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - “I know we were closed earlier in the week because of all the snow. All the pathways are open. They’re shoveled. They’re sanded. So, come out and enjoy the zoo,” President/CEO of Omaha’s Zoo, Dennis Pate said just days after a snow storm.

Staff and animals at the Omaha Doorly Zoo are eager to see new faces.

COVID-19 forced the zoo to shut down for months. Pate called it a financial disaster.

However, he said things have drastically improved within the last few months.

“Over the last four months of the year we’ve probably averaged close to 83 percent of our original budget last year,” he said.

He said memberships are also on the rise. The zoo plans to hold their annual membership drive later in February.

“We had more memberships, a lot in December, and that’s continuing in January,” Pate explained.

As things slowly return to normal, welcoming back more visitors will not be easy.

Several changes are in the works. Some changes you may not notice, like improved ventilation.

“In the jungle, in this building we’re in right now, and in aquarium, and in the giant screen theatre. All new systems to be able to move air more efficiently and make it a healthier environment,” Pate said.

Other changes will be obvious.

“Touchless valves for sinks and toilets and things. Touchless door openers,” Pate added.

There are also improvements to protect some of the animals.

Pate said some cats, gorillas, and bears, are not immune to the virus.

“So, wherever we have those animals where we didn’t have enough distance between you and the animal, we’ve had to put some plastic barriers up,” he said.

With warmer weather slowly approaching, Pate hopes the animals will eventually see more faces. He also believes new and improved exhibits like, Gorilla Valley, will attract a crowd.

“But more importantly to me more educational areas for people to learn about gorillas, and more things for gorillas to climb on out in their exhibits,” he added.

Wearing a mask and social distancing are still required of visitors.

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