There are more than 1300 animals at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo that will be monitored and cared for in the event of a worst case scenario landfall of Irma in the Tampa Bay Area.
Zoo staff have worked around the clock to make sure all of the habitats are secure and their supplies are fully stocked.
“We have generators, backup water, and propane is topped off,” Dr. Larry Killmar the Chief Zoological Officer said. “Our forage warehouse is full to the brim. Right now we could ride out for two weeks here comfortably to the day.”
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There will be a team of 12 employees and support staff to ride out the storm.
“They'll be at the ready,” Killmar said. “We have most of our animal care people maintenance and security. We want them on this side of the line, let's just say roads are impassable and hard to get in, we want people here at the zoo to make sure everything is safe and contained.”
Killmar said it will be easy to get the larger animals inside their concrete block secured habitats. But, the challenge, if the storm takes aim at Tampa will be getting all the birds into safe buildings.
“The hardest part is going to be the birds, obviously because you have to get them out of flight cages. But again, we have an experienced staff that can handle that and the good thing about a hurricane is we have many hours to prepare.”
Historically, Killmar said the zoo hasn’t faced any serious issues with flooding. And they have pumps ready to move water away in the event of an unforeseen emergency.
Killmar said protecting the animals is their number one priority every single day of the year. But, with the threat of a hurricane it is even more important to keep them safe. In some cases, Killmar said the animals in the zoo could save a species from extinction.
“An average of 96 elephants are killed every single day in Africa. With about 380,000 elephants left, if you do the math, we have eight years left of elephants in Africa if we don't stop this now. This is the Hope diamond right here we are going to protect it like crazy.”