As last year’s hurricanes headed toward land, zoos and aquariums went into emergency mode to keep their animals safe. Zoo Miami and the Houston Zoo are each home to thousands of animals representing several hundred species.
Many people evacuate with pets, but “moving an antelope or a lion isn’t like packing up a cat or dog,” says Ron Magill, a spokesperson for Zoo Miami. The stress of moving can be deadly for zoo animals. To best protect their animals, zoos typically secure them in place during hurricanes.
During last year’s storms, zoo staff prepared for days in advance, stocking up on food, water, gas, generators, and cleaning supplies. Animals like lions, apes, bears, and rhinoceroses were moved into their sleeping quarters as the storms approached. These sturdy structures are made of materials like metal and concrete. Smaller mammals and some species of birds were put into kennels or other enclosures inside hurricane-safe buildings. Sometimes that meant putting animals in unusual places, like the zoo’s public restrooms.