Friday, September 9, 2011

Victims of a flooded zoo

You may have seen, heard, or read that the keepers at ZooAmerica in Hershey, Pennsylvania, made the humane decision to euthanize 2 bison before they drowned in the rapidly rising floodwaters of a nearby creek (closeup 1st image, aerial photo here). The public has questioned why the bison were not relocated. When tropical storm Lee threatened, the staff put the zoo's evacuation plan into effect and began to transfer animals to other Hershey properties, but the bison (2nd image, shown in Winter 2009) - weighing in at 2,000lbs each - were simply moved on Monday to the highest point within their enclosure. A zoo spokesman explained yesterday that moving large animals is stressful on them and requires tranquilization, so it is done only when necessary and not in response to every flood warning. The measures that they did take should have allowed them enough time to tranquilize and relocate the animals when the flooding became severe, but the speed and ferocity of this storm made this impossible. A statement from the zoo relates what transpired on Wednesday: "Unfortunately, no one could anticipate a weather event that went from inches of rain to feet of flooding in a matter of a few short minutes. While we were able to ensure the safety of the vast majority of the animals in the Zoo, flood waters rose too quickly in the area occupied by two of the Zoo’s bison and we were not able to rescue them. Faced with the prospect of watching the extended suffering of the bison and their eventual death due to drowning, the Zoo staff chose the most humane path possible and euthanized the bison. This is a very sad day for us, as we’ve built strong bonds with all the animals in our care. We can tell you that each of us feels this loss very deeply." Unfortunately, the zoo was also criticized for having to correct this statement. They only euthanized one of the bison. the other had already drowned.

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