The Omaha Zoo is previewing a new permanent home for Stingray Beach

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium unveiled the new permanent home for Stingray Beach Thursday morning.

Dennis Pate, President and CEO of the zoo, shared information about the exhibit before Zoo Education students feed the stingrays.

The exhibition is open to the public on Friday at 9 a.m. For the time being, it will only be open on weekends.

Godfather said exhibits that allow guests to interact with animals have always been popular attractions for the zoo.

“The direct contact with the animals for children, families and zoo guests has proven to be a real benefit for us. It’s one of the best educational things we can do, ”said Godfather.

Stingray Beach is currently home to 31 stingrays, with eight more to come soon, who were born in Henry Doorly. The exhibit will eventually house around 50 stingrays, Godfather said.

The stingrays have been part of the zoo for about five or six years. Previously, the new stingray site was a metal picnic building near the former sea lion pool.

“The sea lion pool – not everyone has seen it,” said Godfather, referring to the new exhibition that opened last summer during the pandemic.

ZOO UPDATE: The new stingray exhibition will open to the public tomorrow. I just got a behind the scenes tour! I’ll show you what to expect tonight! Make sure you tune in @ WOWT6News! pic.twitter.com/JtOxufGJAd

– Ashly Richardson WOWT (@AshlyWOWT) April 1, 2021

The new location in Stingray Beach and the sea lion pool mark the final parts of the zoo’s master plan, Godfather said.

“Nobody expected us to raise the money to do it in 10 or 11 years,” said Godfather.

The zoo has many more plans, he said, but is still working out details with its board of directors and isn’t ready to share it yet – although he said a new flamingo exhibit as well as a refurbished gorilla exhibit will open in the coming months.

Mitch Carl, Henry Doorly’s water sports curator, said the main benefit of the permanent exhibit is that the stingrays can stay in place year round.

“Every year we had to take the stingrays, put them in the aquarium, put them on a temporary farm, and bring them back twice a year,” he said. “It was pretty tough for the stingrays and tough for us.”

The tank is also a little deeper, which makes the area more comfortable for the stingrays, he said, noting that they had nine baby stingrays in the past year.

Elizabeth Mulkerrin, vice president of education at the zoo, said the interactive exhibits are important “because they help develop empathy.”

She said the water exhibits also provide an opportunity to educate Nebraskans about the impact the waters here are having on the ocean.

“Though we seem far away, these streams, these rivers that flow into the ocean, which then affects our stingrays,” she said.

Check out the full video from Thursday’s preview event

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