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Palm Beach Zoo: 1,000 animals 'storm recall' trained

Posted at 5:32 PM, Aug 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-27 18:17:26-04

The Palm Beach Zoo, home to approximately 1,000 animals is keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Dorian.

It suffered $700,000 in damages following Hurricane Irma and they’re still working to recoup the cost. Management tells WPTV there are a dozen hurricane shelters for the animals but preparedness before a major storm at the 23-acre zoo also includes a focus on trees and water.

“One piece is the animals - but there are a couple other pieces,” said Mike Terrell, Palm Beach Zoo curator.

From the moment a new animal arrives at the Palm Beach Zoo they’re trained on a “storm recall.” A process in which zookeepers use a cowbell to alert animals that a storm is coming and they need to seek shelter.

“As soon as we get a new animal in we start training them right away,” said Janice Hudson, Palm Beach Zoo primary zookeeper. ”If we have some 50 mile per hour winds or even 30 mile per hour winds and one of these trees happens to blow over on this fence that’s not a good situation. So we avoid bad situations like that by training all of our animals to recall - including our birds.”

Zoo officials say beginning Wednesday and over three days all animals will be relocated to shelter. 20% will need to be housed at an off-site location. But there’s also trees horticulture teams have trimmed and flood mitigation.

”We’ve got a number of pumps that are available that keep the water at a certain level,” said Terrell.

The cost of a storm isn’t pretty according to the zoo’s chief financial officer Kathleen Breland. Hurricane Irma damaged the zoo’s administration building, a number of primate and wallaby habitats, trees and fencing. Totaling approximately $700,000 when you add labor costs. The zoo is still working to recoup the cost from FEMA’s public assistance (PA) program, two years later.

”So my primary job over the next three days is to keep the staff calm,” added Terrell.

The zoo may seek volunteers to assist with post-cleanup efforts depending on the impact of the storm. To learn more visit: https://www.palmbeachzoo.org/Volunteer-at-the-Zoo