Global & Disaster Medicine

What do zoos and aquariums do during a hurricane?


“….The skeleton of a zoo disaster plan is similar across the board: Staff members remove loose debris from the park, tarps and signs are taken down, generators and gas tanks are prepped. Cleaning supplies and food for animals and staff are stockpiled in advance — basically anything the zoo can prepare to operate without any outside assistance.

Facilities will also often choose members of a ride-out crew: select facilities staff, animal nutritionists and other key team members who will bunker down at the zoo through the storm. Lee Ehmke, CEO of the Houston Zoo, says 15 team members stayed on the first night of Hurricane Harvey last month.

“We were sleeping here at the zoo, on cots or on the floor,” he says. “We prepared food so everyone was fed … There was a lot of radio and Internet communication to make sure the right diets were given to the animals.”…..In preparation for Hurricane Irma this week, Zoo Miami’s plan is to stay put, too, says communications director Ron Magill. The reasoning, in part, is because the path of hurricanes can change quickly, and transporting an animal could actually mean moving it into more danger.
“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,” Magill says.
He says the stress of evacuating alone can be enough to kill an animal. Instead, the birds and small mammals of Zoo Miami will ride out the storm in independent kennels or buildings. The larger residents, particularly the carnivores and great apes, will bunker down in their usual indoor holding areas.”

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