Humans have been ordered to evacuate from southern Florida in advance of Hurricane Irma. SO WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE MIAMI ZOO ANIMALS?! They can’t just up and relocate to a shelter. It’s not fair!
The good news is staff members at institutions like Zoo Miami are prepared. In fact, they're required to be prepared by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a consortium of more than 230 animal care facilities that mandates all members to practice disaster preparedness to keep their accreditation.
The stress of moving the animals at Zoo Miami—which houses everything from orangutans, to giraffes, to tigers—would likely cause them far more damage than the hurricane...and could potentially kill them. (NO!) Instead, a skeleton crew of staff is chosen to stay behind to feed and care for the animals while the storm rages. They draw on a stockpile of food and cleaning supplies that is always on hand, and they communicate with zoologists and other staff members via radio if other forms of communication are down. They are heroes, and they deserve our gratitude.
The animals, meanwhile, will be moved to safe indoor locations. The carnivores and great apes will likely stay in their ordinary indoor holding areas, which are poured concrete. The flamingos at Zoo Miami were famously moved to a men’s restroom during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and smaller creatures will likely be moved to similar locations for Irma.
Hurricane Andrew was bad. Like, really bad. It destroyed much of southern Florida. On the bright side, it also prepared Floridians for the worst. Zoo Miami (which at the time was Miami Metrozoo), lost over 100 birds when a mobile home landed on the netting over the aviary, which had been tested for 150 mph winds. The zoo additionally lost all of its walk-in freezers and refrigerators, which were blown away.
So in advance of Irma, Zoo Miami has reserved a refrigerator truck that cannot be moved by a force of nature. It will also ensure that all of its creatures are safely housed away. And when the storm has passed, it will likely have supplies left over that it can share with other zoos and aquariums—such is the benefit of being prepared.
Wish the animals luck! And pray that the Zoo Miami posts some adorable photographs of them hunkering down for the storm on Instagram, so that we can all feed better about their safety!
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