See how the 1,100 animals at ZooTampa rode out Hurricane Ian with around-the-clock help from zoo Team members.
Old fire hose donated by the Safety Harbor Fire Department is being woven into baskets by zoo interns to use by the animals for hiding places, quiet spots to nap and to have fun climbing in. (ZooTampa)
TAMPA, FL — With the help of dedicated zoo staff who were on hand before, during and after Hurricane Ian, the 1,100 animals at ZooTampa at Lowry Park safely weathered the storm's gusty winds and downpours.
To keep the animals safe and the zoo secure during hurricane season, the various zoo teams begin meeting in January to create hurricane preparedness plans and secure plywood and other supplies before the arrival of the Atlantic hurricane season June 1.
Once a tropical storm or hurricane watch is issued for the area, the animal care team begins preparing emergency holding areas and securing the carriers needed to move the animals to safety.
Most of the animals have barns and night houses that have been constructed to withstand major storms.
Some of them, especially birds who live in open-air aviaries, are moved to safe locations around the zoo where they receive plenty of food, water and enrichment.
And for some animals, remaining in their habitat is the safest and least stressful option.
For example, impalas require room to run and move as a herd and would likely injure themselves if confined.
Alligators can simply submerge themselves in the water to avoid the storm, just like their wild counterparts.
A "ride-out team" made up of animal care, a veterinarian, maintenance and park operations staff, an emergency medical technician and security personnel remain onsite during the storm, serving as a first responder team in case of an emergency and keeping the animals calm and safe.
Now that the danger has passed, the zoo animals are ready for some fun and relaxation, and ZooTampa's interns are ready to fulfill their needs.
The interns have been putting their creativity to test, finding new ways to recycle fire hoses donated by the Safety Harbor Fire Department.
Part of the zoo's internship program includes challenging the interns to come up with new ways to encourage the animals' natural behaviors like scratching, grooming, climbing and even sleeping.
To that end, the interns used their imaginations to recycle the fire hose into items the animals would enjoy using.
They've woven the fire hose into baskets for the animals to play hide and seek in or simply take a nap. They've also transformed the fire hose into long-lasting animal feeders and used it to make durable toys for the animals that like to play rough, like the elephants, rhinos and big cats.
The ZooTampa animal care team members said the fire hose from the Safety Harbor Fire Department, which is both durable and flexible, has become an indispensable resource for ZooTampa's animal enrichment activities.
The animal care team members noted, as well, that this eco-friendly collaboration with the Safety Harbor Fire Department is helping to keep discarded fire hoses out of landfills.