New Orleans: Zoo Animals/Museums and other Precious Things

When natural disaster is looming, what do zoo officials do? How do you evacuate a small herd of elephants, thousands of small mammals, and various creatures big and small? What about aquariums? How do you move a whale? The sheer logistics of it is boggling. What about animal shelters/pounds?

What do they do about museums? I work in one myself, and I seriously cannot imagine trying to clear it out in two or three days time even with the help of a National Guard crew. Much of this stuff is irreplacable.

Libraries? How do you quickly move a million books?

For the animals, just build yourself a big boat. I think a couple dozen cubits should be sufficient for a zoo.

The buildings that make up museums, libraries, zoos tend to be heavier construction (concrete block,steel) than what homes on the gulf coast are made of (cheap wood frame and plywood).
Besides power outages and mild flooding they don’t have much to be worried about.

Actually, I can help a little.
The whale hospital I worked at in Florida, did nothing but secure the building, give all the employees the weekend off and pray that everything turns out okay. Thankfully everything did.
If things were serious enough, though, the animals could be moved. But the logistics involved don’t allow for hasty decisions, so they have to know well in advance if they should do anything that serious. The problem with hurricanes is that one never knows anything for sure in advance…

Zoo animals. . . when responding to the disasters left by last years batch of hurricanes, there were several calls going out about wild zoo animals loose in the streets. We had other things to do, so I never got to go chase any tigers or anything cool like that. This was a particularly small zoo though. But I imagine large zoos would to the same thing. Secure the grounds as best as possible and hope all goes well.

Weren’t there some estimates that flooding might exceed 25ft?

That’s what I was thinking about-- they said tha people should take shelter on at least the third floor. (Which, of course, makes me wonder about the Superdome. . .)

I suppose insitutions could try to drag everything upstairs, but the amount of labor involved in this is just staggering.

With libraries it really depends on the construction - an awful lot of academic libraries are mostly underground, and there’s really not a whole lot you can do except sandbag and move your rare book collection. The big thing is to have a disaster plan before the disaster strikes, of course. Once you get back into the building after a flood, then your disaster planning becomes of paramount importance - I know the university here has contracts for freezer space for the books, which have been used plenty of times for floods in the past. It buys you time with book preservation - you get it out in basically the same shape as you put it in, so time is of the essence to get books in the freezer. Once you’ve passed the immediate crisis, you decide how you’re going to dry them out. I don’t know what happens if there’s a major hurricane and the freezer people are all just as screwed as you are, though, but for the smaller floods I’ve helped out with, that’s what we do. They’ve all been floods from above - we put tarps out, we move books, etc. I’m sure a huge hurricane is very different.

Underground construction in New Orleans?
Gwan! :dubious:
They even bury folks above ground there.

GEEZE! The N.O. graveyards are likely yielding up their dead as we speak! :eek: :eek: :eek:

Sorry that this is a bit off topic…

Hey, cool! Which hospital? I’ve been volunteering at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito for a few years now.

When I was in Florida for the NMEA conference in 2004 I got to see a few of the Stranding Network facilities, like Mote in Sarasota.

Mote Marine Aquarium’s Dolphin and Whale Hospital in Sarasota is it! Man, I miss that place…
Summer of 2004? So you got to see the “Seven Dwarves”? Though I’m sure all 7 Stenos were not left by the time you got there. Did you go to Clearwater Aquarium too? Mayo lives there and he’s still my favorite.


As an aquarium employee (in Baltimore), I can help answer some of this. First off, all AZA-member institutions are required to have a disaster plan to deal with precisely this situation. At least with a hurricane you usually have time to prepare. A lot of the planning involves knowing where you can move animals to (i.e. neighboring institutions outside of the strike zone) if they are not housed within the building. Most of a large aquarium’s collection cannot be moved; however, the buildings are usually steel-reinforced concrete and therefore hard to damage structurally, and there are usually provisions to move anything that’s outside, in. The biggest concerns are usually power loss (since you need power to run the filtration, temperature control, oxygen supplying, and other life support systems for the tanks), and flooding. Therefore many places will have gas-powered generators on hand and will plan to leave some staff in place to monitor the situation during the course of the storm.

When first Floyd, then 2 years later Isabelle, threatened and hit Baltimore the biggest concern at first was the glass pyramid of our Rain Forest exhibit–if the storm had hit at hurricane strength, it could have broken the glass and destroyed the exhibit. Plans were being made to catch out as many animals as possible from the exhibit and relocate them to the inside back-up areas, but then the storm was downgraded and that was considered no longer an issue. By the time both storms hit, they were only tropical storms. Unfortunately, Isabelle caused extensive flooding in downtown Baltimore, resulting in about 3 feet of water inside the Aquarium and several inches in our off-site animal holding area in Fell’s Point. Rising water forced the staff staying o/n to shut off the power (since the main junction boxes inside were threatened) and rely on generators and oxygen tanks. We luckily didn’t lose any animals (especially since no exhibits are on the ground level) but we did have to replace a lot of drywall & carpet in the ground level education and volunteer offices, which was costly. We have watertight gates to block water coming in through doors, but they’re not much help when the water is rising through drains and cracks in the cement floor!

I have a friend who works at the Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans. It’s located between the flood wall and the Mississippi (in other words, on the wrong side of the flood wall) and has a section with a glass roof, so it could be in trouble if the water rises too high and/or the glass blows in. Hopefully they’ve moved the birds and animals from their glass area inside. While in the past my friend has done o/n hurricane duty, she’s evacuated for this one. I don’t know if they left any staff o/n at the facility for this go around or locked things up tight and hoped for the best.

For zoo animals, it comes down to relocating the most valuable animals (most large institutions will have at least some vehicles able to move animals since they have to have a way to take them to airports for shipping) and moving as much inside to strong buildings as possible. Unfortunately, it is impossible to evacuate everything and few zoos have a huge excess of holding space for other institutions’ collections. Most zoo buildings (i.e. reptile houses, small aquariums, etc) are built pretty solidly; any building that’s not will likely be abandoned and the animals either moved to a more secure location (perhaps the vet hospital or a quarantine building) or even left outside under the theory that they have a marginally better chance fending for themselves outside than being left in a building that could collapse on top of them (this is the same advice given to horse and livestock owners since many barns and stables will not withstand hurricane force winds). Audubon Zoo is, fortunately, outside of the bowl of New Orleans, but I haven’t heard any word on whether or not they were able to locate parts of their collection or what they’re expecting in terms of damage/loss.


I don’t think I got to see them. This was in August, and there were 2 dolphins in the tank, which was pretty unusual for me, since we almost never get stranded dolphins out here. I had a great time checking out what you do Manatees and turtles too!

gulf port moved its dolphins to pools at hotels further inland. the birds and seals, sea lions to a warehouse inland.

cnn has taken to showing the dolphins at one of the hotels. dr moby is with the dolphins that cnn shows.

in fla when big hurricanes go through they move delicate birds into indoor rooms. there is a rather famous picture of a bathroom full of flamingos. they were rather taken with the mirrors.

last year chuckie the gator got loose from a small zoo. the other animals (big cats ) were taken to refuges around the area. smaller animals rode it out with zoo staff at the human’s homes. the zoo decided to let the gators on their own at the zoo, as they could fend very well on their own.