Hurricane Irma has Florida zoos, wildlife parks preparing for Category 5 storm

As Hurricane Irma continues to roar towards South Florida as a Category 5 storm, don't expect to see lions and tigers (or bears, for that matter) joining the thousands evacuating on area roadways.

Zoos and wildlife parks across the state are getting ready for the storm, which was packing 180-mph winds as Thursday morning -- but that means hunkering down instead of heading out.

Officials at Zoo Miami said in a Facebook post since hurricanes can change direction, "you run the risk of evacuating to a more dangerous location."

"Furthermore, the stress of moving the animals can be more dangerous than riding out the storm. The animals that are considered dangerous will stay in their secure night houses, which are made of poured concrete and welded metal. These animals survived Andrew without injuries," the Zoo wrote on Facebook.

The zoo's iconic flamingos, which rode out Hurricane Andrew in a hay-filled bathroom 25 years ago as the then-Category 5 storm slammed the park, and Hurricane Georges in 1998, won't be hiding out in same location.

When Irma nears this weekend, the birds will be inside their steel and concrete enclosure, a spokesman for the zoo told the Miami Herald.

“It’s one of the things we learned from Andrew,” Ron Magill told the newspaper. “They will be safe.”


The zoo will be closed Thursday and Friday to prepare for the hurricane, and officials said it's loaded up on additional food and water, while generators "have been tested and ready to go."

About 220 miles north of Zoo Miami, another iconic Florida wildlife attraction may be placing small animals at a conference center.

Gatorland, located in Orlando, is planning on crating its possums, raccoons and other animals and placing them in a conference room within a concrete building at the park.

Park director Mike Hileman told the Orlando Sentinel up to about 40 snakes will be placed in locked boxes in the same secured building.

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The park's signature attractions, however, will stay in their normal exhibits, but are more accustomed to dealing with tropical weather.

“Alligators and crocs, they couldn’t care less,” Hileman told the newspaper. “This isn’t anything new to them. If it gets real bad, they take a breath and sink to the bottom of the water.”