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Zoos and Aquariums Gather To Help Florida Zoos and Aquariums After Hurricane Ian

A group of zoo and aquarium professionals is lifting a hand to Florida facilities after Hurricane strikes the state.

By Jenna DeedyPublished 4 months ago Updated 4 months ago 3 min read
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ZDR3 USA Team working to pick up storm damage at the Lemur Conservation Foundation. Photo by The ZDR3 USA Team, via, Facebook.

On September 28th, 2022, Hurricane Ian strengthened into a high-end Category 4 hurricane after restrengthening over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. It progressed towards the western coast of Florida, making landfall on Cayo Costa Island. The storm would kill 137 people and cause over $50 billion in damages, with Fort Myers Beach and Naples taking the bigger beatings while Sanibel Island and Pine Island saw additional damages caused by storm surges and severe flooding.

While the hurricane was heading toward the state, local zoos and aquariums were preparing to keep their animals safe by staying close to the public and having animal care professionals stay behind to look after the resident animals. For example, ZooTampa moved its exotic bird collection out of open area habitats into secure ancillary buildings It also implemented a storm ride-out team that comprised animal care professionals, veterinary staff, maintenance, and EMTs, to assist the animal residents at the zoo while the facility remained closed. Both Florida Aquarium and Clearwater Marine Aquarium have established their own essential personnel to ensure the animals' safety.

In the storm's aftermath, several zoological facilities from across the nation, via, Zoo Disaster Response, Rescue and Recovery, or ZDR3’s United States chapter, deployed their units to facilities that were affected by the storm. The San Antonio Zoo (SAZ) was the first facility to send its facility staff to affected facilities. They were first sent to conduct post-storm maintenance work at the Punta Gorda-based Iguana Land on October 3rd. It’s a reptile facility that focuses on educating people about the plight of exotic reptiles in the wild and how difficult they can be as house pets. As the weather was getting cooler and the water continued to retread from areas that were flooded by storm surges, the most critical task ensured that every zoo and aquarium in hurricane-affected areas had access to electrical systems that serve as life support systems for their animals. This was the reason the SAZ sent a seven-person team with expertise in restoring and maintaining electrical systems that kept the reptiles healthy at the facility. The team also had an electrician on hand with them to assist the situation.

In addition, the crew ended up removing several trees that impeded the local power company’s ability to restore power to the facility and repaired the electric lines throughout the property that were destroyed by the damaged trees. They also took care of other maintenance projects that allowed the staff to focus on caring for their beloved animals.

A Resident Lemur at the Lemur Conservation Foundation. Photo by the ZDR3 USA, via, Facebook..

Then, on October 5th, the team was sent over to the Lemur Conservation Foundation to help with cleaning up debris that caused damage to the property, allowing the LCF staff to put all focus on caring for their animals. When they were not with the animals, the staff helped the San Antonio Zoo team remove additional debris around the property. Once work was done, the team returned to Texas, and a three-person team was brought in from the Palm Beach Zoo to conduct additional work.

As of this writing, the ZDR3 response team is still receiving several requests from many zoos and aquariums across the state. They’re still facing the aftermath of the hurricane as their own staff reach breaking points of dealing with the recovery efforts both at work and at home. However, once they've learned about ZDR3 and their efforts to help facilities get back on their feet, they find a glimpse of hope and sent in requests to help them out.

If you work for a zoological facility that would like to participate in future responses, please have your leadership read more about ZDR3 on their website to determine whether they would like to become a new member of the ZDR3 response network.

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About the Creator

Jenna Deedy

Zoo and Aquarium Professional, Educator, Cosplayer, Writer and B.A. in Psychology whose got a lot to share when it comes to animals, zoos, aquariums, conservation, and more.

Instagram: @jennacostadeedy

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