As Hurricane Florence lashes North Carolina coastline, zoos prepare for the worst

“It gives me peace of mind. It comforts me, makes me know that my animals are safe and that is all you can ask for,” senior bird keeper Sarah Faugno said.

(Fox News)

A room on the first floor of the North Carolina Zoo’s animal hospital has been converted into an indoor aviary, parrots and cockatoos squawking and flying in cabinets designed to keep them safe.

The siamangs, which are normal to swing from branch to branch in their green connection, be escorted to an underground housing that can withstand the strong winds and floods. Flamingos are led to open rooms in the animal hospital, which is above the ground.

#zoos procedures for the protection of their #animals of natural disasters and those in the path of #HurricaneFlorence
will be rolling them out as we speak, including our friends and colleagues @NCZoo

The staff and the animals are in our minds safe

— Wild Well-Being (@WildWelfare) September 12, 2018

Zoos around the Carolina are preparing for a monster storm that Thursday began lashing the east coast is the tropical-force winds. Employees are securing the loose items, such as banners and tarpaulins, and to ensure that the animals are well fed and well protected.

At the North Carolina Zoo, a “ride-out crew”, consisting of arborists, veterinarians, caretakers and park rangers has been assembled to stay in the zoo during the storm to take care of emergencies.

“The North Carolina Zoo’s highest priority is the safety of our people and the 1,600 animals under our care,” Diane Villa, a zoo spokeswoman told Fox News.

Further to the south, the director of animal care and Welfare at Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina said preparation for a hurricane of this size could take several days, if not even months.

“It is not something we can simply respond,” John Davis said. “….one of the biggest plans that we want to make sure we are supplying the support of the collection in the event of a power outage or if the roads were difficult to get in stocks and have a well-rounded emergency response team.”

Riverbanks Zoo is home to more than 2,000 members of the animal kingdom. Located in Columbia, S. C., the facility is surrounded by two large rivers, which concerns the personnel of the potential storm surges and flooding.

“Flooding the Saluda River is always a concern and we have had times when it did start to breach our perimeter,” Davis said.

Banks has about 300 species of birds, 150 of which are located in the outdoor habitats. Davis said that the birds are very strong, but with their habitats being outdoors, it is more difficult to protect the birds from harsh winds or flying debris. That is the reason why they are brought inside.

“We want to be very careful as some of these species, such as birds, catch them, and they move in strange locations, that takes a lot of time and planning, and we go easy with that,” Davis said.

Zoo had also prepared more generators, a refrigerator truck and a few days-worth of food for each species on the site in the event of a power failure.

“It gives me peace of mind. It comforts me, makes me know that my animals are safe and that is all you can ask for,” senior bird keeper Sarah Faugno said.

Other zoos in Virginia and south Carolina will be closed when they are finished with the securing of all animals, and their habitats for the strong Category 2 hurricane makes landfall.

Terrace Garnier is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Columbia, South Carolina. Follow her on twitter: @TeraceGarnier

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