Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo prepares animals for frigid weekend temperatures

(Omaha, NE) -- As even more frigid temperatures move into the metro this weekend, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium are making sure their animals are safe and warm.

Taking a look around the zoo this week, steam can be seen coming off the water at the sea lions exhibit showing just how cold it is. Vice President of Animal Management Dan Cassidy tells WOWT 6 News that the return water in the feature can be warmed up to 65 degrees. "So, not the temperature we would like to take a bath in but for the sea lions—they’ll be out cruising around."

Each species is unique though, with different needs during this polar vortex. Cassidy says every animal at the zoo has a team monitoring them 24/7 when temps drop, and they all have a heated indoor facility they can stay in for safety. “Because it’s so cold a lot of the animals that would ordinarily be outside will have access. We call it access so the door will be open so they can choose to come or go. But some will be locked in, like the lions.”

But Cassidy says, some animals may surprise you. “The cheetahs from Africa, that you would think would only be in a warm climate, they’ll go outside almost every single day.” They even have heated rocks inside their exhibit to keep them toasty.

In the Asian Highlands exhibit, most animals will stay outside even on Sunday with an expected high of negative one. “The snow leopard, the Siberian tiger, the takin, those guys will be outside no problem,” said Cassidy.

It’s not just the animals the team here has to worry about, though. Leaders with the zoo say not many people brave the cold during a week like this one. But there is the occasional few. “We do encourage them to spend some time indoors. We try to offer activities that make them want to go inside,” said Dennis Schnurbusch with the zoo.

The zoo has backup generators and extra heaters on standby if the power goes out.

(Photo by Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium)

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