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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Most of New Orleans Zoo Animals Survived Hurricane Katrina

04 Sep 2005, Source: Reuters
By Mark Babineck

Only three of its 1,400 animals died at the New Orleans zoo in the wrath of Hurricane Katrina.

The famous Audubon Zoo has the good fortune of being located on some of the city's highest ground, but it also had a disaster plan for the animals that worked better than the city's plan for humans.

It suffered no serious flooding, but the storm's fierce winds toppled several large trees and knocked down branches throughout the 52-acre (21-hectare) grounds.

The only fatalities so far were two otters and a raccoon, zoo curator Dan Maloney said on Sunday.

He said the zoo had planned for years for the catastrophic storm that has long been predicted for New Orleans, which is mostly below sea level and almost surrounded by water.

"We're on our own here and we know we're on our own," said Maloney, who has begun calling the zoo Camp Katrina. "We tried to plan for what's impossible to plan for."

While many human storm victims had no water or food, the zoo laid in enough provisions to keep its animals alive for days.

The storm provided additional food by stripping from the trees huge amounts of leaves, which were mixed in with other food to extend provisions.

A few items -- hay, crickets and mealworms -- have been restocked by a convoy from Baton Rouge, Maloney said.

Fourteen staffers stayed at the zoo to care for the animals throughout the storm and the aftermath that has left New Orleans in ruins.

They said the biggest problems now are the low-flying helicopters buzzing around the city to rescue people and transport them to safety. The sight of them and the noise scares the animals, said assistant curator Rick Dietz.

"The hoof stock start to run around. We don't want them to run into a fence and break their necks," he said.

They have sent out a request that choppers either not fly over the zoo, which is in the city's Garden District, or stay at least 1,500 feet (450 metres) above it.

Maloney said the human suffering and death outside the zoo's fence was a terrible tragedy, but he was grateful he and his staff managed to save the helpless creatures on the inside.

"We stayed here because the animals can't leave," he said.


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