Let’s acknowledge the elephants in the room

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New friends have arrived and new sites are coming soon to the Henry Doorly Zoo. The new elephants arrived in Omaha on March 11 in a group of 18 and were ushered straight into quarantine.

The elephants were living in Swaziland in Africa. The group of 18 elephants sent over from Africa was in danger of being killed as a result of overpopulation in Big Game Parks. Big Game Parks are large areas of land where wild animals are able to live safely or be hunted in a controlled way.

The Omaha zoo is keeping six of the 18 elephants, while the rest will be divided between two zoos in Wichita, Kansas, and Dallas, Texas. In exchange for these elephants, the United States will pay $450,000 over the next five years to the Big Game Parks in Swaziland in an effort to conserve rhinos in Swaziland.

The excitement surrounding the elephants was palpable and was even felt throughout the halls of Marian. Teachers and students were abuzz about Omaha’s new, big-eared pals. Elephant-enthusiast and theology teacher, Mr. Kevin Fuller promoted the live feed of the elephants on opening day.

“I was very excited when I heard about elephants coming! According to trip advisor, we had the number one zoo in the world but San Diego stole it from us. With elephants, ours will be number one again because we’re the best,” Fuller said.  

“They hide food all over the cage and walk on sand so their feet don’t get hurt. The boy elephant is injured, so he can’t be displayed. The mom is in charge and the dominant elephant, so she gets to eat first. The zoo will be selling peanuts to feed the elephants!” Fuller can hardly contain his excitement.

“Elephants are my favorite animal and I was so excited to see them back at the zoo,” junior Sophie Dineen said.

The original elephant exhibit left the zoo in 2010, and the new elephants will be housed in the Elephant Family Quarters in a new exhibit on the eastern border of the zoo. The exhibit is called African Grasslands. This exhibit will include an African style lodge, the Elephant Family Quarters, and Giraffe Herd Rooms. The exhibit is a $73 million investment and will turn out to be about 28 acres.

Along with the African Grasslands, the zoo plans to unveil The Alaskan Adventure, an Alaskan-themed project complete with life-sized whale sculptures and running water.

“The Humpback is about 7 tons and the Orcas are about 2.5 tons each,” said Kyle McCawley, the Larkin Aquatics Project Manager who helped design the water features for this exhibit. The Alaskan Adventure, located in the northern part of the zoo near the Aviary, is predicted to be open to the public around Memorial Day.

This summer will be a great time to visit the zoo and see all the new exhibits. Gather your friends and stampede over to the zoo; it’ll be a whale of a time!

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