(Omaha, NE) -- The Lied Jungle and Desert Dome at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium are open once again after the bird flu caused them to temporarily close.
The zoo says the exhibits reopened on Monday after no further cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) were identified on Zoo grounds after two Pink-backed pelicans died of HPAI on October 13 and 14. Zoo leaders say the Lee G. Simmons Aviary will remain closed as the Zoo moves from level 5 to level 4 of its prevention and response plan.
According to the zoo, veterinary staff have tested several birds from the Simmons Aviary and the Madagascar outdoor exhibit for HPAI and all results have been negative The four remaining Pink-backed pelicans tested negative for HPAI and are in good health. These pelicans have been moved to an indoor location for the winter. No other birds at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium have shown any symptoms or required testing.
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium says it's has taken multiple steps to reduce the number of wild waterfowl from lingering on Zoo grounds. Two inflatable tube men have been strategically placed on the lagoon to deter wild geese and ducks from landing due to their erratic arm movements. The guest path is also being washed down each morning to remove any waterfowl fecal material, and the most at-risk birds in the Dome have been moved to an off-exhibit holding area until the Zoo moves to a lower response level. There is also a “foot bath” mat at the entrance to the Lied Jungle that the Zoo is asking all guests to step in as a precaution.
The Simmons Aviary is the Zoo’s highest-risk area and and they say it will not reopen until they are able to move down to response level 2. “Our Aviary holds many susceptible waterfowl species and is open to wild birds, although only birds smaller than sparrows can actually get in,” said Dr. Sarah Woodhouse, Director of Animal Health for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. “The Aviary is also near the lagoon where the wild waterfowl hang out, which makes it very likely that guests could unintentionally step into fecal matter of wild birds and walk it into the Aviary.”
“Our number one priority is always to protect our birds and guard against any potential spread of Avian influenza,” said Dr. Woodhouse. “At a level 4, precautions also remain in place for staff in bird areas including foot baths, limited access, and protective clothing.”
Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium says it continues to work with the USDA and the Nebraska State Veterinarian, and will keep the public updated if anything changes.