SANFORD, Fla. – The Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Sanford remains closed more than a week after Hurricane Ian made landfall in Central Florida.
The animals were not harmed and the zoo sustained minimal damage, officials said. The issue is the flooding outside the zoo making it nearly impossible for guests to safely drive up to the entrance.
Staff are having to use large trucks to navigate several feet of water to get to the animals they care for. The zoo remains closed to the public with no sure sign of when it will reopen.
“It’s a waiting game for us. We’re told it’s probably going to take a week to two weeks where flooding can get to a level where our roads are passable again,” said CEO Richard Glover.
The Zoo sits at the intersection of the St. Johns River and Lake Monroe, both growing to dangerous levels during Hurricane Ian, causing record flooding through the area and surrounding the zoo.
“The animals. They’re all safe, they’re all doing great,” Glover said.
Before Ian hit, many of the animals were moved indoors to large barns and buildings throughout the property. News 6 spoke with members of the ride-out crew, a group of keepers and landscapers spending several nights at the zoo during the storm to make sure the animals were safe.
“It was tough for a couple of days. The building they were staying in flooded. They woke up one night and there was water on the floor and they went through quite a bit. We were fortunate we kept power throughout,” Glover said.
Crews are now working to clean up the mess.
“Most of them stayed for several hours after they could’ve gone home Friday, because they wanted to help clean up and do things. It’s our home in a lot of ways. It’s impressive to see the dedication,” Glover said. “There was a lot of flooding, a lot of trees down and debris all over the place.”
Glover said the giraffe enclosure took a hit.
“We had damage to the giraffe enclosure, to some of the fences because there was a tree that fell and damaged them. That’s going to have to be repaired before the giraffes can come out and be publicly on display again. You can still see them in the back area but you won’t be able to see them in the front area for a while,” Glover said.
The zoo is having to use large trucks and construction vehicles to get supplies in and out. Glover said while the damage is minimal, the zoo is taking a hard hit. Repairs and loss of business due to flooding is estimated to cost upwards of $500,000.
“It’s going to be a substantial impact to the zoo. We’ll be asking people who are able and willing to make a donations for hurricane relief for us because, this is goin to be a hard one for us to get past.”
Click here to make a donation to the Central Florida Zoo.