Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Zoo Bringing in 'Ride-Out' Team to Help Protect Animals, Facility; Group of about 20 Will Include Animal Care and Security People

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Jacksonville Zoo Bringing in 'Ride-Out' Team to Help Protect Animals, Facility; Group of about 20 Will Include Animal Care and Security People

Article excerpt

Byline: David Crumpler

Many animals at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens have sense enough to come in out of the rain.

But others have to be coaxed into their night houses for safety.

Failing that, some of them - various birds, for example - can be rounded up with nets and placed in shelters near their exhibits.

With the approaching threat of Hurricane Matthew, zoo workers were beginning the process Thursday of trying to keep the animals out of harm's way.

A team of about 20 people was scheduled to stay at the zoo for the duration of the storm, possibly as soon as Thursday evening, said Dan Maloney, the zoo's deputy director of conservation and education.

"It's the first time we've hunkered down like this in the six years I've been here," Maloney said.

Previous hurricane threats during that time turned out to be near-misses, he said, but Matthew's projected path convinced them to elevate safety efforts.

The zoo was closed to visitors Thursday and Friday, and Maloney said it could remain closed for at least part of Saturday, depending on whether the zoo suffers any damage and how much cleanup may be necessary.

This is not Maloney's first experience with hurricanes.

He was curator at The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans when Katrina hit in 2005. He, along with about a dozen other zoo staff, lived at the zoo for about two months in its aftermath. Only a few animals died as a result of Katrina; the major damage was downed trees. But the zoo was short on food and supplies, he said, and had to reach out to other zoos for help.

The Jacksonville Zoo has enough food on hand to feed the animals for about another two weeks before it would need to be re-supplied, he said.

"We have to be self-reliant in the aftermath of a storm," Maloney said. "We know that in the community, people's needs come first. …

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