Whenever we have friends visit Omaha for the first time we always take them to the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo. There are many parts of the zoo that is my favorite but one of the better exhibits is the Hubbard Gorilla Valley which opened in 2004. Here it is almost like the people are on display instead of the gorillas. One particular silverback male loves toddlers and it’s not unusual for him to bound over to the window and stare at them. He did that with my daughter when she was little in the previous gorilla building.
There are very large outdoor valley areas which encompasses about two acres of habitat which curve and zigzag around the exhibits and make it feel as though it’s much larger. Over twenty gorillas of different ages share a multitude of living areas and many visitors have their favorites.
Gorilla Messes With Visitors at Zoo
As I said it is not uncommon to see the gorillas interact, tease or “mess” with visitors. I’ve just been sitting on the ledge with my back turned and one of the males will just come up and bang on the glass and run away, just like up above. I think he just likes seeing the reaction of people, I know I jumped! Just search on YouTube for Omaha gorilla and you will find hundreds of videos of our gorillas “interacting” with the public.
The design of the enclosures is meant for human and gorilla interaction and many people feel the Omaha Zoo has the best gorilla exhibit in the United States. In 2014 they were awarded the Best Zoo in the World by Trip Advisor. In Nebraska this is old news, but when CNN and the travel channel highlight our city and zoo it’s an even bigger source of pride.
Gorilla Breaks Glass at Omaha Zoo
So in April of 2015 when the gorilla cracked the glass, during one of his stunts, it shouldn’t be any surprise to regular visitors.
But it surprised the country and the below video has gone viral on Facebook and other social media outlets. The activity of this gorilla is nothing new. Many people come to the zoo to interact with him. People who have never visited the Henry Doorly Zoo are criticizing how cruel it is to have gorillas in captivity, or even the ignorance of the little girl and her parents.
It is scary, especially to little kids. I have often cautioned parents with little kids that the gorillas exhibit this behavior and might lunge at the windows.
As you can see from the video and the photos the gorilla enclosures are very large. I have met with the keepers and veterinarians at the zoo and brought visiting veterinarians to the zoo. The enrichment program is very intense. Not only do they have a different activity every day, but they don’t repeat an enrichment program more than once a month. Some of the enrichment activities include pumpkins, phone books, boxes, perfume, and other manipulatives..
The gorillas are put together in social groups in environment with trees, boulders, logs and an enrichment program that is meant to challenge them on a daily basis. The natural habitat of Lowland gorillas is disappearing at a tremendous rate and Omaha is one of the premier world wide reproductive facilities in the world that houses the largest gorilla sperm banks.
I just love our zoo, and I think we’re going back sometime soon to take some other friends. It’s definitely a destination you can’t miss when you come to Omaha. Almost every year there is a new attraction and even though the Omaha Zoo is great now it’s just going to get better with an upcoming $175 million dollar Master Plan expansion planned in the next 15 years.
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