Florida zoos and animal sanctuaries are preparing for Irma thanks to lessons from Andrew

25 years after Hurricane Andrew, Florida’s zoos and animal sanctuaries are facing the same dilemmas as Hurricane Irma draws near. But this time, the institutions are sheltering their animals in different ways.

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Zoo Miami won’t be hoarding its flamingos in a bathroom, like they did during Andrew, but will instead have them riding the storm out in a more secure concrete building. At Jungle Island and Everglades Outpost, animals are being sequestered in night shelters already, and caretakers aren’t wasting any time getting them there.

“We are preparing for the worst, and hoping for the best,” said Martha Frassica-Rivera, the general manager and head animal curator at the Everglades Outpost, a wildlife rescue center in Homestead. “Our first concern is the safety of our animals.”

In addition, zoos are releasing some animals, such as birds, into the wild. They feel they’ll stand a better chance surviving that way.

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“Animals are smarter than we think and are keen at hunkering down during weather events,” said Christopher Boykin, executive director of the Pelican Harbor Seabird Station.

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