2 Jan 2020

Australia bushfires: Mogo Zoo animals saved by staff efforts

3:29 pm on 2 January 2020

Hundreds of animals have been saved at Mogo Zoo in New South Wales, with staff battling surrounding bushfires and one even sheltering small monkeys and red pandas at his home.

The zoo's director, Chad Staples, described the conditions as "apocalyptic" but felt he and staff were able to defend the zoo because they enacted their fire defence plan.

"We have still have a lot of spot fires," Staples told the ABC.

"It felt like Armageddon a few hours ago."

He said he took several smaller animals, including red pandas and small monkeys, to his own home.

"Right now in my house there's animals of all descriptions in all the different rooms, that are there safe and protected... not a single animal lost," he said.

"Everything else it was safer to protect them where they call home.

"What we did with the dangerous animals - lions, tigers, orangutans - is encouraged them to the night den, kept them calm, like nothing was happening, and we were able to protect them at that site.

"The only animals that saw any sort of signs of stress were the giraffes and zebra, but that was more to do with the activity of keepers being all hands on deck.

"We were moving vehicles around that had huge amounts of water and pumps and things on them to get to spot fires."

Sara Ang from the wildlife park told BBC 5 Live radio that "some of the smaller monkeys had to be moved to the house, the red panda is in the house and there's a tiger in the back area of the house".

"All the animals that needed to be moved indoors have been moved indoors," and hence are safe from the fire.

Giraffes and zebras were left in their enclosures as they were large enough for the animals to move away from spot fires.

An evacuation order was called for Mogo about 6am on Tuesday, but staff at the zoo, which was once famous for its white lions, stayed to save the animals.

"The zoo's plan was always to defend the site, because we could make it safe here for all the animals," Mr Staples said.

"Thanks to the amazing team that just love these animals like their family, we were able to do so. It was amazing.

"We got out and we watered everything we possibly could. Any species of animal that was small enough or in an area that we couldn't protect, we caught up."

But the town of Mogo itself had not fared so well, with at least one business on the main street in ashes.

Roman Leathergoods owner Lorena Granados said she felt "gutted and numb" after losing the shop she ran with husband Gaspar Roman.

"We fought 'til the end but the fire was furious. We lost everything," she said.

Asked if he wanted one thing for the new year, Staples said: "This is the New Year's wish come 2020: come on, bring on the rain!"


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