Hundreds attend elephant debut at Omaha Zoo

Posted at 5:19 PM, Apr 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-06 18:22:20-04

A month ago 17 elephants were transported from Swaziland Africa, six of them now call the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo their home, and Wednesday the zoo opened them up to the public.

Dozens of people were waiting to greet the new additions.

One by one the five female elephants were let out into their indoor exhibit using cues from their keepers to make their way front and center.

The sixth elephant, the male, is healing an ankle injury that he came to Omaha with. The vets are hoping he will be able to roam about in the next month.

“They are doing really well, you can see behind me here they are settled in, the keepers have them into a bit of a routine and they are busy out making a living,” said Omaha Zoo CEO Dennis Pate.

He said the elephants have adapted to their new life and after a month of training and passing quarantine checks they were ready for everyone to see.

“We are so excited, we waited a long time for them to come back,” said visitor Becca Kinney. 

“It’s amazing in here, the pictures didn't do it justice, but it will be exciting to see them all the time,” added Laura Rice.

While it was too cold for the elephants to go outside, people were able to watch them look for the hay and snacks hidden around the pen.

“They know out here there is hay, apples, fiber bisects, there are treats everywhere,” said Pate.

Rice had a dedicated elephant fan, her daughter, sporting an elephant hat and a look of awe.

“She if probably the biggest elephant fan in the world and we have been waiting and waiting and waiting to see them, so we surprised her and got her from school this afternoon and let her come,” said Rice. 

The zoo expects large crowds to show up this weekend to see the elephants, so they will have a parking and crowd control plan in place so everyone can enjoy the newest attraction.

“We always loved the zoo but this makes it even better,” said Rice.

So far the elephants do not have names, but they should soon, their keepers and several Sponsors are in the process of picking them. 

The zoo hopes they can get their three acre outdoor exhibit open before Memorial Day.