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Zoos Struggle To Secure Animals As Hurricane Irma Barrels Towards South Florida

Protecting your pets during a hurricane has, thankfully, become a norm in recent years, but one thing you might have overlooked was how zoo animals are cared for during mega-storms.

For South Florida, which hosts a large number and variety of wildlife/conservation sites, ensuring animals are kept safe during Hurricane Irma has become a top priority—but some facilities have found themselves short on resources and time.

The result? Many zoos are resigned to riding out the storm alongside their animals, with crews balancing their own safety with the well-being of wildlife.


“The animals in our care are endangered species, they require very special care,” said Dr. Paul Reillo of the Rare Species Conservatory Foundation in Loxahatchee, Florida, “facilities are not provisioned to do that on normal day, much less in an emergency.”

In summation, Dr. Reillo says, “We’re kind of stuck with riding these things out.”

Other sites, like Zoo Miami, has a default non-evacuation policy when it comes to hurricanes, stating on a Facebook post Wednesday that fleeing storms is futile “since [they] can change direction at the last minute and you run the risk of evacuating to a more dangerous location.”

The zoo added, “Furthermore, the stress of moving the animals can be more dangerous than riding out the storm.”

Other zoos, however, are evacuating a certain number of wildlife, such as the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society.

Located in West Palm Beach, Florida, they’ve already moved smaller animals to buildings functioning as shelters for the storm.

However, some of the facility’s habitats are actually already hurricane-safe, such as those where their tiger, jaguar, Komodo dragon, and bear are kept.


“They will be locked inside of those shelters before the storm comes,” said Naki Carter, the zoo’s Communications Director.

“Our goal is to have all the animals safe and sound and moved to their appropriate locations by [Friday] night, with a final walk-through of the zoo on Saturday,” she said.

In addition, there will be a stand-by team of six people and the hurricane-proof building also serves as their “command center”, as well as for performing surgeries.

They have already evacuated 30% of their animals ranging from birds to howler monkeys to turtles and more.


In addition to the evacuations and stand-by teams, the zoo has extra supplies of food, including enough to last smaller animals 10 days and larger animals for about a month.

“We are prepared for the worst and hopeful for the best, we are preparing for a Category 5 to make direct impact with our zoo,” said Naki.

Hurricane Irma has already caused significant damage across Caribbean Islands, breaking multiple records in speed and intensity.

Thankfully, the AP reported Saturday afternoon that the storm was downgraded to a Category 3, with winds of 125mph:


Source: David Wolfe