Omaha has, objectively, the best zoo in the world. So says TripAdvisor, and so say I. There are lots of things that make it great, and I will probably use this space to talk about them from time to time. The Omaha Zoo Foundation is a client of mine at my job, so I feel like I have a bit of an inside track, and I'm obsessed with sharing all their amazing stories. To the point where Brian's been heard to grouse that if you visit the zoo with me, you don't have to rent the audio.
The coolest thing about Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is their commitment to plant and animal conservation (I refer you to omahazoofoundation.org for articles and blogs about their global efforts and impact). As zoo CEO, Dennis Pate, likes to note, the role of zoos has changed from animals serving people by providing entertainment, to people serving animals.
This spring, the Omaha zoo has partnered with National Geographic on an exhibition of The Photo Ark, which is photographer Joel Sartore's quest to photograph the world's animals -- especially those that are endangered -- to show us what will be lost if we don't act to preserve the earth's biodiversity.
Sartore's a world-famous photographer whose Photo Ark has been exhibited at the Vatican, the United Nations and on The Empire State Building, but he grew up and lives in Lincoln, NE -- about an hour from Omaha. He says that his parents taught him to love animals, and the Henry Doorly was his home zoo -- back in its early days when it was small and humble (I loved it then, too). In fact, although he partners with zoos around the world to photograph the animals in their care, many of his pictures were taken at the Omaha Zoo.
This makes his Photo Ark exhibition a perfect fit for Omaha, where it will run through September 4, but it is also on display at the Cincinnati and Dallas zoos this summer, and it may continue to show at other zoos after that. In Omaha, alone, a potential two million visitors will have the opportunity to see these gorgeous faces from the animal kingdom, up close and personal. I defy anyone to look at the souls that Sartore captures within and not care that we're in danger of losing them.
The pictures here are my iPhone snaps of Sartore's work, but if you have the chance to see them in person, it really is life-changing. Exhibition organizers also encourage viewers to post selfies with the animals and #savetogether. I have a feeling the GaGas and I will be doing that a lot this summer.