Jacksonville Zoo closes to protect animals from Dorian

Storm plans and special crews in place to shelter all species

VIDEO: Preparations are underway at the Jacksonville Zoo to protect hundreds of animals that live there ahead of Dorian.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens will be closed Monday through Wednesday due to Hurricane Dorian.

“As Zones A and B are now under mandatory evacuation in Jacksonville, we have decided to close the Zoo and Gardens for the safety of our guests and to allow time for staff to prepare the facility for possible strong winds and flooding,” Executive Director of the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Tony Vecchio said.

Hundreds of animals at the Jacksonville Zoo will be protected inside facilities. They will be kept in or near their night houses for their safety as the storm approaches, zoo officials said. Large animals and carnivores will be secured in their indoor quarters during the storm. State-of-the-art video equipment will allow animals to be monitored at all times.

A special "ride-out-team" made up of about 20 people have trained for emergency situations. They will check on the animals, keep life-support systems ready and make sure anything else they could need is on hand.

With the possibility of bridge closures, it's important to have staff on grounds to feed and care for animals. “We are taking every factor into account to ensure the safety of our patrons, employees and their families, and our animals,” Vecchio added.

"There are some animals we have learned that know how to handle hurricanes," Vecchio said.

The Caribbean and African flamingos will be kept outside during the hurricane because they have the ability to withstand the conditions during a hurricane and it’s less stressful on the animals.

The ride-out-team will be monitoring the flamingos as well as the animals that will stay indoors.

"You never know when a tree branch might fall and rip a fence, and we can’t have a tiger in that situation," he said.

He said the zoo has a full supply of food stocked up for both the animals and staff in its storage facilities.

"We don’t go to the grocery store daily," Vecchio said. "We bring in months of food at a time." 

The Zoo and Gardens will reopen Thursday, pending any unforeseen wind or water damage. You can stay update on the reopening or any additional closures by visiting: JacksonvilleZoo.org/ZooClosure.