Central Florida Zoo reopens after Hurricane Ian damage

Zoo closed on Sept. 28 for hurricane preparations

The Central Florida Zoo reopened on Wednesday, Oct. 26 after historic flooding from Hurricane Ian drenched Central Florida.

SANFORD, Fla.The Central Florida Zoo in Sanford reopened to guests on Wednesday, Oct. 26, nearly a month after Hurricane Ian ripped through Central Florida.

“We’re just excited to be reopening and seeing smiling faces welcoming the community back to be part of this again,” said Richard Glover, CEO of Central Florida Zoo.

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The zoo closed on Sept. 28 to make preparations for Hurricane Ian and has remained closed for cleanup, according to the release.

The main issue was the flooding outside of the zoo that made it nearly impossible for guests to safely drive to the entrance.

“We had three days we were back in here cleaning up thinking we were going to reopen that next week and then all that water started coming back towards Lake Monroe and settling in the front property as it has all the way down Seminole Boulevard,” said Glover.

The zoo sits at the intersection of the St. Johns River and Lake Monroe. Both grew to dangerous levels during and after Hurricane Ian, causing record flooding through the area and surrounding the zoo.

He said the water eventually rose to the point cars were unable to get in and out of the property.

Glover said he estimated the damages and the cost to operate the zoo during its four-week closure to be over $800,000.

“The main thing is that everyone is OK. Money is money. It can come later if it needs to,” Glover said.

According to the release, the Wayne M. Densch Discovery Center, the Zoo’s main meeting building, suffered flooding damage and will stay closed for a month or more. In addition, the bear exhibit and boardwalk will be temporarily closed for repairs.

Jaqueline Miller from Altamonte Springs visited the zoo on Wednesday with her daughter.

“We’re very excited, especially for my daughter. She really loves the zoo. We came by and saw some of the water there. We thought it was closed, but then went to the website and it said it was open, ”Miller said.

Glover said that all of the zoo’s animals remained safe during the hurricane and its aftermath.

The zoo also asked for the public’s help with recovery efforts and those that wish to help can donate at www.centralfloridazoo.org/get-involved/hurricane-ian/.

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About the Authors:

Jacob joined ClickOrlando.com in 2022. He spent 19 years at the Orlando Sentinel, mostly as a photojournalist and video journalist, before joining Spectrum News 13 as a web editor and digital journalist in 2021.

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.