MONROE — A slumbering black bear woke up at the sound of Todd Laudenklos’ voice.
The bear lumbered down from the perch it was resting on and approached the cage to receive a little attention.
“She’s like my big baby cub,” Laudenklos said as he crouched down to pet Bella.
In the cage next to her, a vervet monkey named Alvin also wanted some attention.
Laudenklos pulled the cellphone from his pocket and showed it to the curious animal. The monkey looked closely at the screen.
“He loves phones,” said Laudenklos, who learned that one day when Alvin pulled the phone out of his back pocket.
That's all in a day’s work for Laudenklos as owner of Horn T Zoo in Monroe.
The zoo, which is in its seventh year, recently opened for the season.
Dozens of animals are kept at the facility along Highway 22, including alligators, lemurs, zebras, alpacas, Siberian lynx and different types on monkeys. The public can get a close look at them by visiting the business 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through the end of October.
The zoo opened a bit earlier this year because it is one of the 80 stops for the Nebraska Passport Program, an effort by the Nebraska Tourism Commission to promote tourism in the state.
A few families at the zoo Saturday afternoon got the chance to hold and pet animals such as small alligators and baby ducks, as well as feed an albino raccoon, black and white lemurs and Asian small-clawed otters.
Horn T Zoo is in the middle of an expansion. A 60-by-80-foot room where animals can be kept year-round is being constructed.
Laudenklos said some animals can’t handle the cold Nebraska weather, so they are sent to warmer locations until the zoo reopens in the spring. The addition, which includes indoor and outdoor enclosures, will allow the zoo to remain open for a longer period of time.
“We want to be open throughout the year,” Laudenklos said.