With a hurricane of biblical proportions heading over South Florida this weekend, Zoo Miami’s preparations ahead of Irma would make Noah proud.
“This isn’t our first rodeo,” Zoo Miami Communications Director Ron Magill told CNN Thursday. “Since 1992 we went through Hurricanes Wilma and Katrina, which gave us substantial damage…we’re in the process of locking down the zoo and we got all the shutters up,” he added.
According to Magill, the majority of animals, including tigers, lions and great apes, will be kept in their concrete-made night quarters. Small mammals and birds will be placed in small enclosures within certified buildings in the zoo, he added.
Magill said that no animals will be moved out of the premises because flooding is not a concern, and noted that displacing animals poses more danger than the storm itself. “The wind is something that we hope to protect them within the structures that we have here,” he said.
As news on Zoo Miami’s procedures broke out, images of flamingos being sheltered in one of the then-Miami Metrozoo bathrooms during Hurricane Georges in 1998 began to emerge on Twitter:
Keeping flamingos in restrooms was also a standard procedure during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Magill said he’s confident Zoo Miami will be able to weather Hurricane Irma. “For a lot of people — and I’m speaking for myself in Andrew — the zoo became almost a haven to us,” he told NPR. “We became a better zoo, and as bad as [Irma] looks, I know we’ll be able to make it through this also.”
Zoo Miami said in its Facebook page that they “have loaded up on additional food and water” and that its “generators have been tested and ready to go…we’ve stored all cycles and removed debris.”
Zoos have learned to cope with natural disasters. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, comprised of 230 animal care facilities in the United States and overseas, require that all of its members conduct an annual emergency preparedness drill “to update their protocols every year,” according to NPR.
Hurricane Irma is expected to churn over Miami this week according to new models, but its path may change in the next few days, The Miami Herald reported. Florida could see surge waters between five and 10 feet above ground, according to forecasters.