🦏 Zookeepers to ride out hurricane with animals at Central Florida Zoo

Large animals relocated to barns and indoor spaces for safety

The zoo will be closed Wednesday through Friday.

SANFORD, Fla. – The Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Garden is bracing for Hurricane Ian.

The zoo will be closed Wednesday through Friday.

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“A couple days out we know a storm’s approaching so we have various protocols for the animal care team. That usually means getting extra supplies of food and medication and moving them to areas we know won’t flood,” Director of Animal Operations Christopher Troge said.

The zoo has more than 400 animals and reptiles. Some animals including the rhinos, bears and leopards are being relocated to large barns and indoor spaces throughout the zoo for safety.

“We’ll bed it down with shavings and give them ample food and hay. The barns are enclosed and will protect the animals from the elements,” Troge said.

If you’re wondering if the animals will be alone during the storm, the answer is “no.” The zoo has a dedicated “Rideout Crew” that will be on hand through the hurricane to make sure the animals are safe.

“We have our hurricane ride-out crew. It will be about 12 individuals composing of animal keepers, myself, a member of our veterinary team and members of our facilities team. We will ride out the storm here whether it’s overnight or a couple of days. We have our air mattresses ready and food,” Troge said. “It’s kind of a bonding experience because you’re together in tight conditions. Some of the animals like the birds will be inside the building with us.”

During the storm when it’s safe, they’ll be taking trips around the zoo to monitor any damage and make sure the animals are OK.

“Above all human life takes precedent, but if there is an issue with an animal, we will devise a plan to make sure we can take care of the animal as fast as possible with all of the tools and equipment we have here,” Troge said.

Troge said with the incoming storm there is a silver lining.

“Most likely there will be a lot of downed limbs which is great because our animals love to eat leaves and bark and branches. So after the storm’s over, we’ll have a gigantic supply most likely,” Troge said.

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About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.