The Zoological Association of America (ZAA) revealed how Zoological Disaster Response, Rescue, and Recovery (ZDR3) led the response to damaged zoos and aquariums in Orlando, USA, after Hurricane Ian swept through the state. 12 zoos in Florida that were damaged by the hurricane received assistance from ZDR3, which offered needs assessment and guidance before deploying regional and outside resources to support affected facilities.
ZDR3 Executive Director Julia Wagner (Co-Chair of the ZAA Safety & Security Committee) and President and Treasurer of ZDR3 Michael Fouraker (ZAA Accredited Fort Worth Zoo Director and ZAA Board Member) arrived first to inspect the damage and determine the resources needed.
In the field, Wagner and Fouraker assessed damaged facilities that requested help. Some needed advice on how best to handle their situation; others asked which authorities to contact for specific conditions. In one case, the couple checked on the well-being of a staff member at a ZAA-accredited zoo in the area.
Prior to arriving in Florida, Wagner also notified the ZDR3 Facility Network that responders might be needed, and more than 40 facilities in various states offered to send teams.
Expert intervention teams
Due to impassable roads, long lines of utility trucks and other responders, getting responders to a hurricane-affected area can be challenging. One of the most skilled disaster response teams in the industry, the San Antonio Zoo (SAZ) team, was originally dispatched by ZDR3. Chainsaw operators, electricians and welders were part of the seven-person team of facility staff with key skills.
Erin McNally, (ZAA Member, Co-Chair of the ZAA Safety and Security Committee, and Director of Crisis Response for Growing Resiliency for Aquarium and Zoo Employees (GRAZE)) is well known in the zoological industry for helping with stress management related to critical incidents. She’s also a superb logistics coordinator, having started working behind the scenes since Hurricane Ian formed.
First, she determined what supplies were needed in the impact zone and needed for Iguanaland in Punta Gorda, the first response site. The ZAA-accredited ZooWorld provided products for the SAZ team to take with them, as well as supplies that SAZ had already collected, such as gas, water and crickets. Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, Lion Country Safari, Southland Safari, Cameron Park Zoological Society Dallas Zoo, Zoofari Parks, Monterey Zoo and Hemker Park and Zoo also donated supplies, along with individual donors.
The SAZ team spent over a week assisting in various affected locations. In Iguanaland, they removed a number of large downed trees that were preventing the power company from restoring power and repaired power lines that had been damaged by falling trees. Additionally, they worked on other maintenance issues at the facility, so zoo staff could focus on caring for the animals.
Wagner, McNally and the SAZ team then traveled to the Lemur Conservation Foundation (LCF) in Myakka City, where they removed several more downed trees, including those that had landed on the lemurs’ outdoor forest habitats. In a single day, they felled 46 trees. After the SAZ team left, three members of the Palm Beach Zoo team arrived to help Wagner and McNally complete tree work at the site, so the lemurs could safely enjoy their forest habitats. .
In addition to on-site work, remote responders also carried out vital activities. Susan Klevenzoological director of the Frank Buck Zoo and founding member of ZDR3, was busy tracking crew movements and details of their work, and maintaining and organizing notes for after-action reports.
David Cleven is the creator of AnimalCare Software (ACS), a daily recording solution and welfare management tool for animal care professionals and a ZDR3 Partner. He posted details of ZDR3 network facility resources that could be shared, including types of crew, personnel with specialized training, vehicles, roll cages and holding capacity for hospitality. animals requiring evacuation. This key information is only accessible and used by the ZDR3 core team.
Eric Trager, owner of Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo and another founding member of ZDR3, is also one of ZDR3’s most experienced disaster responders. It remained on standby for deployment to the affected area and is still awaiting possible recovery deployments.
ZDR3 project assistant, Melanie Messerprovides administration and communications
support, including during deployments. She has also cooked for teams in previous deployments and used that experience to send out shopping lists, menus and other information to accelerate the ability to feed everyone efficiently and affordably.
Finally, ZDR3 communication volunteer Mandy Matson kept followers on ZDR3’s Facebook and Instagram pages updated on the response.
ZAA will host its annual conference in Litchfield Park, Arizona from November 29 to December 2, 2022. This year’s event is presented by Mazuri and hosted by World Wildlife Zoo, Aquarium & Safari Park.