Jul 17

Congratulations, Teresa Shepard: Replacement of the Jungle Roof

Most people realize that it takes a lot of humans behind the scenes to keep Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in tip-top form, which is one of the reasons the Director’s Award was established – to honor zoo staff who completed projects in 2016 that had a notable positive impact on zoo operations and/or the guest experience; or showed significant costs savings or added tangible value to a process or park operation or animal husbandry in general.

The Omaha Zoo Foundation has been proud to highlight these individuals in our ongoing blog series, and, today, we’re excited to feature a twofer. Last fall, Teresa Shepard, Lied Jungle supervisor, worked with Andrew Marti, the zoo’s facilities and operations manager to ensure the successful installation of a new roof for the jungle – just in time for its 25th anniversary.

We caught up with Teresa (below) and Andrew (here) to learn more about their important role at the zoo and how they worked together to make our Lied Jungle even better than ever.

OZF: Supervising the Lied Jungle sounds like one of the world’s coolest jobs. What is your background?

TS: I remember coming to the zoo when I was a kid, and seeing the zookeepers feeding the sea lions and thinking that I wanted to do that. In college, I was a psychology major, with an emphasis in animal behavior and I started volunteering in the Jungle. That was just two years after we opened. After college, I started working here and I’ve been here ever since.

OZF: What’s changed the most since you’ve been at the Jungle?

TS: The training that we do with the animals today has enabled us to work with them in so many new and less invasive ways. For example, Scooby, our male hippo, who has been with us his whole life, has an overgrown tooth. In the old days, we would have had to immobilize him to treat it, but now we have trained him to let us get in there and file it a little bit at a time. We can also do ultrasounds and blood draws on our animals without having to sedate them.


OZF: Why did the jungle need a new roof?  

TS: We’ve needed one for the past ten years. Ultraviolet rays had degraded the fiberglass so it transmitted less and less light every year. The plant life wasn’t taking off, and the animals weren’t getting the light they need either. The old roof had also been hail-damaged by a few storms, so, insurance covered the cost of a new one.

OZF: What was the installation process like?

TS: There was a lot of coordinating with the roof company. It’s a company that specializes in greenhouse roofs that’s based out of Ohio. We started in May, and they estimated it would take until December, but they had it all done by October. We put up shade cloth throughout the whole building to keep everything that belongs in the jungle in – and everything that doesn't out. We had a pregnant gibbon at the time, so we had to coordinate it with the roofers so that the project was finished before her due date.

OZF: Do you see a difference in the plants and animals now?

TS: The plants have really been growing. Our horticulturists are cutting a lot more back, but that’s great because we can use those cuttings for browse for the animals. (You can read more about how the roof has helped the plants here.) I think the animals are happier, too. When the gibbons first came out, they were kind of squinting like, “I need sunglasses,” but then it was like they were basking.

OZF: What’s the next big project for the jungle?

TS: We’re getting a new handrail, which is scheduled to be installed in the fall. The glass wall with wooden rail on top is going to be replaced throughout the entire jungle. Since the graphics we have are embedded in the old rail, I’m hoping a new one will give us an opportunity to install new graphics so we can provide more education to our visitors.