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Construction of Omaha zoo's new sea lion exhibit hits 'milestone' as huge windows installed
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Construction of Omaha zoo's new sea lion exhibit hits 'milestone' as huge windows installed

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The Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium’s new sea lion habitat got one step closer to completion on Monday with the installation of two massive pieces of acrylic.

The panels, one 43 feet long and the other 14 feet long, will serve as underwater viewing windows for guests visiting the sea lions in the new Owen Sea Lion Shores exhibit.

“What I love about this window is people will get to see the grace of these animals as they move through the water,” said zoo director Dennis Pate.

Visitors will have 360-degree views to watch seven to 10 sea lions swim around a 275,000-gallon seasonally heated and chilled saltwater pool.

Pate, who watched as a crane lifted the 17,000-pound piece of acrylic into place, said he considers it a “milestone” of the building process.

The $27.5 million Owen Sea Lion Shores exhibit is being constructed at the site of the former Durham Bear Canyon and is projected to open in September 2020.

Pate said the habitat will capture the environment of the Pacific Northwest with details like a saltwater filtration system and evergreen trees.

“The details just add to the learning experience,” Pate said.

The new sea lion pool replaces the Owen Sea Lion Pavilion, which will close next summer. The exhibit opened in 1972 after the zoo unearthed and modified a buried public pool that had closed amid a polio epidemic in the 1940s.

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