FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Heading to the zoo is a traditional summertime activity for many, but it’s also when severe storms are most likely to occur. It may make you wonder, what happens to the animals when severe weather strikes.
Just like your severe weather plan at home, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo has plans for a variety of severe weather. Some of their thresholds to enact plans are for hazards below severe limits.
“Anytime the wind gusts are above 35 mph we make sure dangerous animals get pulled in, we don’t want a tree falling down and compromising that exhibit,” explained Director of Animal Programs Dr. Joe Smith. “We have responses for lightning. Any time there is lightning within 10 miles of the zoo we are bringing in dangerous animals, we are bringing in our giraffes. Giraffes since they are so tall can act like large lightning rods, and anytime we have severe thunderstorms or tornadoes warnings we try to bring in as many animals as we can.”
There are several animals that stay out in all types of weather, just like they would in the wild. In an effort to provide them with a shelter, exhibits include built-in caves and hollow logs, allowing animals to protect themselves from the elements.
Zookeepers and staff are trained to efficiently and safely get the animals to shelter and are notified by a team member that always has their eyes on the sky.
“Every day at the zoo we have someone who is designated as our weather coordinator, they’re looking at the weather every minute of the day,” said Smith. “They give us alerts if there is lightning if there are high winds if there’s severe weather anywhere near our region.”
Animal instincts also play a role, if you pay close enough attention the animals themselves will give you a heads up that it’s time to seek shelter.
“We never know what animals are thinking but we can tell by their behavior that severe weather is coming. Sometimes they may sense changes in pressure or hear the distant rumbling of thunder,” Smith added. “Sometimes they might get agitated or you can tell that something is up and they are ready to go inside and seek shelter.”
The zoo is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through August. In September and October, hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $11 for kids age two to 18 and $15 for adults.
For more information about the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, visit the zoo’s website.