Hundreds of animals have been saved at Mogo Zoo on the New South Wales south coast, with staff battling surrounding bushfires and one even sheltering small monkeys and red pandas at his home.
- Animals including lions, tigers, orangutans and zebras were at the zoo
- An evacuation order was called for Mogo about 6:00am on Tuesday, but staff at the zoo stayed and enacted their fire plan
- The town of Mogo itself had not fared so well, with at least one business on the main street in ashes
The zoo’s director, Chad Staples, described the conditions as “apocalyptic” but felt he and staff were able to defend the zoo because they enacted their fire defence plan.
“We have still have a lot of spot fires,” Mr Staples told the ABC.
“It felt like Armageddon a few hours ago.”
He said he took several smaller animals, including red pandas and small monkeys, to his own home.
“Right now in my house there’s animals of all descriptions in all the different rooms, that are there safe and protected… not a single animal lost,” he said.
“Everything else it was safer to protect them where they call home.
“What we did with the dangerous animals — lions, tigers, orangutans — is encouraged them to the night den, kept them calm, like nothing was happening, and we were able to protect them at that site.
“The only animals that saw any sort of signs of stress were the giraffes and zebra, but that was more to do with the activity of keepers being all hands on deck.
“We were moving vehicles around that had huge amounts of water and pumps and things on them to get to spot fires.”
But the town of Mogo itself had not fared so well, with at least one business on the main street in ashes.
Roman Leathergoods owner Lorena Granados said she felt “gutted and numb” after losing the shop she ran with husband Gaspar Roman.
“We fought ’til the end but the fire was furious. We lost everything,” she said.
An evacuation order was called for Mogo about 6:00am on Tuesday, but staff at the zoo, which was once famous for its white lions, stayed to save the animals.
“The zoo’s plan was always to defend the site, because we could make it safe here for all the animals,” Mr Staples said.
“Thanks to the amazing team that just love these animals like their family, we were able to do so. It was amazing.
“We got out and we watered everything we possibly could. Any species of animal that was small enough or in an area that we couldn’t protect, we caught up.”
Asked if he wanted one thing for the new year, Mr Staples said: “This is the New Year’s wish come 2020: come on, bring on the rain!”