Cleanup at Prague zoo underway after flooding
FILE - In this June, 7, 2013 file photo worker cleans a gorilla statue in the zoo in Prague, Czech Republic. More than a decade after many of its animals drowned, the Prague Zoo is counting the cost of yet another devastating flood. In 2002, more than 100 animals died. This time, only a handful of animals were swept away and an army of volunteers are making sure the hundreds that have been evacuated return home as soon as possible. (AP Photo/CTK, Roman Vondrous, File) SLOVAKIA OUT
PRAGUE (AP) — More than a decade after many of its animals drowned, the Prague Zoo is counting the cost of yet another devastating flood. In 2002, more than 100 animals died — among them, Kadir, a male elephant that became stranded up to his ears in floodwaters and had to be euthanized — when the zoo was inundated by the worst flooding in centuries. In June, nature has again taken its toll, with major flooding that has ravaged parts of Central Europe, again submerging the entire lower parts of the park again. This time, only a handful of animals were swept away and an army of volunteers are making sure the hundreds that have been evacuated return home as soon as possible. Meanwhile, plans are underway on how to minimize the impact of future floods.
THEN AND NOW
Zookeepers were caught off guard by rising waters in 2002 and were unable to save all those creatures in their care. In the frantic rescue effort, about 1,000 animals were dragged, carried, led, put on trucks and even lifted from the water by cranes. About 135 animals died, some by drowning, others from trauma, injuries or stress after the move.
The zoo's losses included an elephant, two hippos, a bear, a lion and dozens of birds.
Following 2002, the keepers worked out a detailed evacuation plan.
In this year's flooding, the zoo decided to start the rescue operation even before they received warnings from authorities. As a result, "the losses are minimal even though the water was rising fast," zoo director Miroslav Bobek said. They include two Lapwing birds, and a young caracal wildcat.
Cleanup is underway and there have been offers from about 10,000 volunteers who want to help. In recent days, almost 100 volunteers join employees a day to work long hours for the zoo.
"There's huge solidarity among the Czech public," Bobek said.
Karel Reznicek was one of them.
"Right now, in these aviaries for birds, we're cleaning up the mud from the floor and the fences," Reznicek, a project manager at the Ceska Pojistovna insurance company, said as he was dealing with the omnipresent stinking mud with some of his colleagues Tuesday.
"There's one nest that I took out and it is unbelievable what kind of mess is there. We are simply doing what is needed."
A charity concert for the zoo is planned in Prague for Wednesday and contributions from the public will help renovate the park.
The most popular animals in the zoo, the group of seven gorillas has been saved. The keepers lured them with food to a part of their pavilion known as the "flood tower," which is the top story of their white building, and they remain there for now.
Only Richard, a conservative male, wasn't impressed and headed for his sleeping quarters, where he had to be tranquilized and placed with the others, the zoo said.
When the water was high, the keepers used a boat to bring them food.
Employees now work hard to clean up the pavilion quickly to prevent them from further stress and make it possible to return to their familiar environment and avoid a complicated transfer to another zoo.