Sunshine through the canopy at the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo's Lied Jungle.

The Lied Jungle

Stalking down the dirt path, she ducked under vines and peered between leaves. Faced with a shallow stream, she looked down to judge the distance as the sunshine filtered down and gleamed off the pink and purple beads that decorated her socks. She easily hopped across the large, smooth stones to her next challenge. She confidently climbed the stairs, never looking back. She wound her way to the hidden overlook where greens of every shade burst across the view. The tapestry of the jungle canopy unfolds, becoming her sole focus as everything else is drowned out by the drum of the nearby waterfall.

This is how I imagine I looked as a little girl exploring the forest floor of the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo’s Lied Jungle. Few things are able to capture the imagination of a child (or a child-at-heart) quite like the largest indoor jungle in America. I have seen at least a glimmer of childlike wonder in the eyes of every person that passes through.

Waterfall in the Lied Jungle at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.

The forest floor has always been my favorite part of the jungle, making me feel like a true adventurer worthy of the title of Indiana Jones or Lara Croft. The soft, slightly damp dirt of the path winds through the trees and exhibits naturally, inviting visitors to see each one up close, totally immersed. Past the pool of stingrays, the bats startle you as they flap overhead, and mystery emerges just around the bend as the first glimpse of the giant Olmec head comes into view.

The top level gives you a monkey’s-eye view from tall trees of life in the canopy as a rope bridge and caves add even more adventure. The sounds of the jungle surround you as birds call out and primates of all sizes, shapes, and colors carry on conversations. The walkways through the canopy blend in with the plants and animals from around the world. It is funny to think that they live far above where the average person thinks to look.

As I try to take in everything above me, below me, and all around me – memories of the world outside fade, replaced by the world of the jungle. Teeming with life, I never feel truly alone even when there is no one around. Instead, I come to realize that there is so much to share, especially after reading about the lives of tribes that live in the Amazon and all the medicines that have come from studying species of plants in these areas.

Many plants and animals in rain forests around the world are suffering from catastrophic deforestation and habitat loss. I try to do my part by recycling, reducing my waste where I can, and spreading the word. I can also help by supporting the Henry Doorly Zoo, which encourages education, global stewardship, and conservation efforts.

Did you know? “The Zoo’s Rare Plant Lab has provided thousands of ferns to Bermuda. So far hundreds have been reintroduced into the historical range after complete extinction in the wild in 1904.”

-As reported by the Henry Doorly Zoo as of December 27, 2019

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