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Omaha zoo previews new permanent home for Stingray Beach

New Stingray Beach opens at Omaha zoo
New Stingray Beach opens at Omaha zoo
Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 10:03 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 1, 2021 at 11:46 AM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium unveiled the new permanent home for Stingray Beach on Thursday morning.

Dennis Pate, zoo president and CEO, shared information about the exhibit before Zoo Education students came in to feed the stingrays.

The exhibit opens to the public at 9 a.m. Friday. It will be open on Weekends only, for now.

Pate said exhibits that allow guests to interact with animals have always been popular attractions for the zoo.

“That opportunity for kids and families and zoo guests to have direct contact with animals has proven to be a real winner for us. It’s one of the best educational things we can do,” said Pate.

Stingray Beach is currently home to 31 stingrays, with eight more coming in soon that were born at Henry Doorly. The exhibit will eventually be home to about 50 stingrays, Pate said.

The stingrays have been part of the zoo for about five or six years. Previously, the new stingray site was a metal building for picnics near the former sea lion pool.

“The sea lion pool — not everybody’s seen that still,” Pate said, referring to the new exhibit that opened last summer during the pandemic.

The new Stingray Beach site and the sea lion pool mark the final parts of the zoo’s master plan, Pate said.

“Nobody expected us to raise the money to be able to do it in 10, 11 years,” Pate said.

The zoo has lots more plans, he said, but are still working out details with its board of directors and aren’t ready to share — though he did say there is a new flamingo exhibit opening in the months ahead as well as a renovated gorilla exhibit.

Mitch Carl, curator of aquatics at Henry Doorly, said the biggest benefit to the permanent exhibit is that the stingrays can stay put year-round.

“Every year, we’d have to take the stingrays, move them to the aquarium, put them in a temporary holding, move them back, twice a year,” he said. “It was kind of hard on the stingrays and hard on us.”

The tank is also a little deeper, making it a more comfortable environment for the stingrays, he said, noting they have had nine baby stingrays in the last year.

Elizabeth Mulkerrin, vice president of education at the zoo, said the interactive exhibits are important “because it helps develop empathy.”

She said the aquatic exhibits also provide an opportunity to educate Nebraskans about the impacts that waters here have on the ocean.

“Even though we seem far away, those streams, those rivers, that dumps into the ocean, which then affects our stingrays,” she said.

Watch the full video from Thursday’s preview event

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