How does a zoo protect their animals from possible injury during a Category 5 hurricane? Fortunately, the eye of Hurricane Irma has slowly been moving away from the Miami Zoo, but there are still major safety concerns. Hurricane conditions are expected to continue for days.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Miami Zoo said it would not evacuate animals “since hurricanes can change direction at the last minute, and you run the risk of evacuating to a more dangerous location.” How true that turned out to be!
“We don’t evacuate our animals since hurricanes can change direction at the last minute and you run the risk of evacuating to a more dangerous location. Furthermore, the stress of moving the animals can be more dangerous than riding out the storm. The animals that are considered dangerous will stay in their secure night houses, which are made of poured concrete and welded metal. These animals survived Andrew without injuries. We’ve loaded up on additional food and water, our generators have been tested and ready to go. In addition, we’ve stored all cycles and removed debris.”
Thinking back to 1992 when Hurricane Andrew set his sights for Miami, the zoo’s 30 flamingos were ushered into the men’s bathroom. Ron Magill, the zoo’s assistant curator at the time, helped to get the birds settled and popped the viral photo of the flamingos standing next to urinals; the photo went viral and has continued to be a reminder of the compassion and devotion the zoo staff maintains for the safety of their animals. After Andrew, a concrete holding block was added to the flamingo exhibit designed specifically for major hurricanes.
As for the animals moved inside for more protection, large birds and small mammals in areas not made of concrete will be relocated. Most of the zoo animals, including tigers, lions and great apes, will be kept in their concrete-made night quarters. Zoo Miami said in its Facebook page that it has “loaded up on additional food and water” and that its “generators have been tested and ready to go…we’ve stored all cycles and removed debris.”
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, made up of 230 animal care facilities in the United States and overseas, require that all of its members conduct an annual emergency preparedness drill “to update their protocols every year,” according to NPR.
“This isn’t our first rodeo,” Ron Magill told CNN on Thursday as workers and volunteers were busy getting organized. “Since 1992 we went through Hurricanes Wilma and Katrina, which gave us substantial damage…we’re in the process of locking down the zoo, and we got all the shutters up.”
Though Zoo Miami was devastated by Hurricane Andrew, Magill says most of the animals survived without a scratch — including all 30 of the flamingos.
(Photos of Miami Zoo hunkers down via Facebook and Twitter)
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