How Zoos, Wildlife Centers Are Preparing for Hurricane Irma

12 September, 2017, 00:48 | Author: Gary Shelton
  • How Zoos Are Preparing for Hurricane Irma

A natural disaster like a hurricane can become a tricky situation when you're trying to find safe spaces for wild animals.

MSNBC's Alex Witt spoke to Miami Zoo spokesman Ron Magill on Saturday about the steps he and his colleagues are taking to protect their animals from the incoming devastation.

Hundreds of thoroughbreds were moved from low-lying areas of Gulfstream Park, near Miami, to other training facilities and barns farther north.

But while that may sound like a risky strategy for the animals kept in cages, tanks and enclosures, sticking things out is actually considered by many experts the safest one.

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For animals that had to be moved, this was only done as late as possible, to avoid stressing them out.

"That's probably the No. 1 question I get asked: 'Oh my God, when are you going to evacuate animals?' We are never going to evacuate animals", he said. According to NPR, the stress evacuation puts on animals, combined with the unpredictability of hurricanes, makes it not worth it to most zoo officials, who say the process could even prove fatal for some animals.

In a post to its Facebook page, the zoo also assured the public that it had stocked up on extra food and water, cleared any remaining debris and housed the animals "in their secure night houses, which are made of poured concrete and welded metal". Almost 30 years ago, dozens of flamingos sheltering from Hurricane Georges a bathroom at the zoo, becoming an iconic image showing the lengths zoo staffs go to to protect their animals in risky weather.

Houston Zoo followed the same precedent last month during Hurricane Harvey. Flamingos rode out the storm in bathrooms during Hurricanes Georges and Floyd, too. Some have ended up losing their own homes while helping care for the species.

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"We allow those animals to decide where they want to go".

Large animals such as lions, elephants and apes have not been evacuated, since their enclosures were fortified after Andrew.

In areas like the Loggerhead Marine Life Center, which will close over the weekend, officials were able to transport some 10 turtles and 40 hatchlings to a safer shelter at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, though this is the first time the marine center has taken on an operation like this, representatives told the Palm Beach Post.

Zoo Miami is keeping its 3,000 animals - from flamingos to cheetahs - pretty much put as it prepares for the coming storm.

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