The Simmons Aviary, Lied Jungle, and the Desert Dome at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium will be closed to guests beginning Saturday, October 15, 2022, due to the death of a Pink backed pelican from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). These exhibits will be closed for at least 10 days. The rest of the Zoo, including Mahoney Kingdoms of the Night, will remain open.
The pelican died yesterday, October 13, and was tested as part of the Zoo’s continued surveillance for Avian influenza. A second pelican became ill today and was euthanized. The Zoo’s pelicans currently live outside, and while they can come into contact with wild waterfowl, they have no contact with other Zoo birds. Wild waterfowl carry the HPAI virus, often without becoming sick, and detections of HPAI have increased across the country over the past few weeks due to the fall migration pattern. No other Zoo birds have shown any symptoms or required testing.
“It is very important that Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium immediately tighten our protocols to protect our birds and guard against any potential spread of Avian influenza,” said Dr. Sarah Woodhouse, Director of Animal Health for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. “As discussed back in the spring, the Zoo has a prevention and response plan in place. We were operating at a level 2 response given some recent cases in the western part of Nebraska, but now that we know there are infected wild birds in the area, we have gone immediately to level 5. This is important both to prevent infection of other Zoo birds, and to prevent the virus from being dispersed off Zoo grounds.”
“The major way that HPAI is transmitted is from the feces of infected wild birds. This can happen as wild birds fly overhead, or by someone stepping in infected wild bird feces and carrying the infection with them on their shoes,” said Dr. Woodhouse. “In addition to closing the Zoo’s bird areas, precautions have been put in place for staff including foot baths, limited access, and protective clothing.”
“We wanted to get the information about the exhibit closures to the public as quickly as possible’ continued Dr. Woodhouse. “We are working with the USDA and the Nebraska State Veterinarian, and we will keep the public updated if anything changes.”
The Simmons Aviary was previously closed between March 3 and June 23 as a precaution against HPAI. During that time, none of the birds living at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium or at the Wildlife Safari Park were infected by Avian influenza.