Florida Zoos Form “Crisis Management Plan” To Protect Animals From Irma

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MIAMI (CBSNews) — People have taken special care to make sure Florida’s animals are evacuated ahead of Hurricane Irma’s landfall. The Humane Society evacuated more than 150 animals on a special flight to California.

At the 116-acre Central Florida Zoo, keepers with the exotic birds struggled to catch a stubborn caracara. It was all for the bird’s own good, reports CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz.

Zoo director Dino Ferri is responsible for keeping about 450 animals safe. He said monkeys are the one of the hardest to coax.

“They’re a little more skittish,” Ferri said.

Some animals, like the rhinos and giraffes, will be kept in their normal sleeping quarters. Ferri hopes they’ll stay put.

“What animal are you most concerned about potentially escaping during the hurricane?” Diaz asked.

“It would be probably any of our carnivores. You know, the big cats,” Ferri said.

Down south at Zoo Miami, Diesel the cheetah is safe inside a “hurricane-proof” space. The zoo houses more than 3,000 animals including a flock of pink flamingos who were moved to a concrete bunker ahead of the storm.

Zoo Miami

It’s a step up from the ’90s when employees were forced to herd the flamingos into bathrooms during Hurricanes Andrew, Georges and Floyd.

“It’s not my first time. I was in New Orleans during Katrina,” Ferri said.

“What did you learn from Hurricane Katrina?” Diaz asked.

“I never want to be in a hurricane again,” Ferri said.

Ferri worked at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans when Katrina hit.

“It’s surreal. What we learned is preparation. We prepare, we have a crisis management plan,” Ferri said. “The start of the season, people start looking for things that could be flying objects. It’s just preparation.”

The Central Florida Zoo has had hurricane damage in the past, but they’ve never lost an animal. Zookeepers are closely monitoring their animals and tell me they plan to stay in their quarters until the storm passes.