We very much appreciate many of your wishes, thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. We realize that just like our staff, many people are emotionally connected to every member of our Zoo family. Because of that connection, we fully understand why some have questions regarding what happened to our bison.
For those who didn’t have a chance to view it, last evening we did post on this page describing what happened.**
We’d like to try and answer questions that some have raised and give as much correct information as possible. While we don’t think this will lessen the feeling of loss that we’re all experiencing, we do hope it will create a common understanding around what happened.
Question: Has a bison at ZooAmerica ever drowned or been euthanized in the past?
Answer: We’ve never lost or euthanized a bison, or any large animal, due to flooding at any time – even including the flooding that occurred during hurricanes that have struck Hershey. Suggestions that bison were lost during Hurricane Ivan are incorrect.
Q: Are there any other animals that have perished from the flooding?
A: There have been no other losses reported at this time. Reports that our wolves passes away are incorrect. All of the wolves were relocated to the highest portion of their enclosure during the storm. All four wolves are fine and the flood waters have currently receded from their enclosure.
Q: Did you have a plan in place and did you feel that it was effective?
A: We do have a flood response plan, which we began implementing on Monday. Based on our past experience and during other milestone storms, our plan to first remove animals to higher ground and then, if necessary, relocate the animals has always been effective in securing their safety.
This, however, was truly unprecedented flooding. Such unforeseen acts of nature are difficult to plan for – as all public and private entities within Derry Township discovered.
Q: Why didn’t you tranquilize and move the larger animals earlier in the week?
A: Tranquilizing and moving large animals is stressful on them – and we only do it when absolutely necessary, not in the instance of every flood warning. Based on more than three decades of experience, the practice of moving the animals to higher ground would have given us enough time to tranquilize the bison and relocate them, should flooding become severe. But, again, the speed and ferocity of this storm was unlike any we’ve ever encountered. When the bison enclosure flooded so quickly, tranquilizing them become impossible, for once they were tranquilized they would have immediately been submerged in the flood water and drown.
Q: Were the bison moved to higher ground?
A: Yes. They were moved to the highest ground within their enclosure earlier in the week.
Q: Why did you wait to close until noon on Wednesday?
A: The fact that we were open to the public did not alter or impede our animals’ safety. Animal relocation did not begin once we were closed; it had been ongoing throughout the week. The safety of our animals, employees and guests is our top priority. It always has been and always will be. We were working to ensure that our animals are in a safe conditions, according to the plan we have in place, throughout the week.
As we said last evening, this has been a very emotional and trying time for those at the Zoo – both our animals and employees. While we are all saddened by the loss of the bison, we must acknowledge the heroic efforts of the Zoo staff – some of whom have been working without sleep on behalf of the animals. Many willingly put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect and rescue the animals in their care (even rescuing wild animals that were in distress at the same time). We are extremely proud of the efforts of the Zoo staff, and share this loss with them.
** Hersheypark’s correction to last evening’s post: A single bison was euthanized after unsuccessful attempts to rescue the first bison resulted in that bison drowning.