SAVING NEW ORLEANS’ ANIMALS
SAVING NEW ORLEANS’ ANIMALS
2005-09-13 at 10:25:00 am #12542
Aquarium animals to be airlifted out of New Orleans
Most of facility’s 10,000 fish did not survive Hurricane Katrina
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana –
Penguins, sea otters, rare Australian sea dragons and a 250-pound sea
turtle named Midas — all survivors of Hurricane Katrina — were loaded
into crates Friday to be airlifted out of the New Orleans Aquarium of
The aquarium’s colony of 19 penguins was placed in crates to be taken
to Monterey Bay Aquarium, in California. They will be joined there by a
couple of California sea otters.
“They came to live with us, and now they’re going to go back to visit
Monterey for a while,” aquarium spokeswoman Melissa Lee told CNN. “We
hope to have them back very soon.”
The other animals will be taken to a habitat in Dallas, Texas, she said.
Most of the aquarium’s 10,000 fish did not survive after the storm
knocked out power essential for making the water habitable, and the
facility’s emergency generator later failed.
Electricity has since been restored at the Aquarium of the Americas, at the foot of Canal Street along the Mississippi River.
The survival of the rare, leafy and weedy sea dragons from Australia
was surprised the aquarium staff, who did not think the dragons –
cousins to the seahorse — could survive “even a minor fluctuation in
the temperature of their water,” Lee said.
“It was very surprising for everyone and also a big rallying point for
our staff,” Lee said. “We had staff who stayed through the storm and
have been there stabilizing the animals and the collection and getting
them ready to move out.”
The sea dragons will be taken to Dallas World Aquarium.
The aquarium’s large, white alligator and eight large tarpons — the only fish survivors — will stay at the aquarium.
Now that power has been restored, Lee said the staff is finding more animals that have survived.
He said the aquarium staff were not the only ones who saved the lives of the aquarium inhabitants.
“We actually had New Orleans police officers and National Guardsmen
around, and they were given a crash course in how to take care of some
of the animals,” she said.
“Even when our staff had to be evacuated out for our own safety, the
police officers were able to stay back and get food to those animals
and keep a good number of them alive.”
The Aquarium of the Americas was considered one of the foremost
aquariums in the world, according to the conservation Web site
“It had 10,000 fish representing more than 530 species and featured
four enormous exhibits — Mississippi River gallery featuring catfish,
paddlefish and alligators; the Caribbean Reef exhibit featuring a
clear, 30-foot-long tunnel surrounded by aquatic creatures; the Amazon
Rainforest display featuring piranhas and tropical birds; and the Gulf
of Mexico exhibit featuring sharks, sea turtles and stingrays — in
addition to a number of smaller displays.”
New Orleans’ other animal centers fared better, with only a pair of
river otters reported dead at the Audubon Zoo and a whooping crane lost
at the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species.
Some of the surviving zoo animals were taken to zoos in Houston, Texas,
and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Thursday, according to Jane Balentine,
spokeswoman for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
The majority of the zoo collection, however, will stay at the facility.
The 211-member American Zoo and Aquarium Association has organized a
fund-raising initiative, headed by the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago,
Illinois, to provide relief.
Saving New Orleans’ animals
In the wake
of Hurricane Katrina, the fate of thousands of abandoned or missing
animals was a low priority compared with human safety.
But as the search for the remaining human survivors nears an end, there
is growing attention on one of the largest animal rescue efforts the US
Yet the fate of their pets is a hugely emotional issue for many people who survived Katrina and its aftermath.
With security restored in New Orleans and the waters slowly receding,
thousands of volunteers from all over the US are in Louisiana to help
reunite people and their animals.
‘I have been distraught’
On Friday, the BBC spoke to a crew of female volunteers from a local
animal welfare group who were launching their first boat mission to
find stranded pets.
Volunteer Tara Barth says she was separated from the 15 cats and two
dogs when she had to evacuate her house in the New Orleans lakefront
“I thought I would get the chance to go back and get them but we were then moved out of the city – I have been distraught.
“Leaving them was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.”
Ms Barth and fellow rescuers loaded their boat with dozens of animal
cages and during their search intended to visit the homes with animals
noted by the BBC.
Meanwhile, families scattered about the region are searching for pets
with the same intensity as they might hunt for a missing relative.
In a sign of the controversy over the issue, Saturday’s edition of the
Washington Post was carrying a advertisement assailing the policy of
forced abandonment of companion animals in the evacuation of New
Forced at gunpoint
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals group said thousands of
animals perished because federal authorities denied animal relief
workers access to areas where stranded dogs and cats were known to be.
At a hotel in Baton Rouge, one man told the BBC he was forced from his house at gun point and ordered to abandon his dog.
But many rescuers have been allowing animals onto their boats – both as
a means of persuading reluctant residents to leave, and because of
their own love of animals.
At the Louis Armstrong International Airport, from where more than
22,000 people have been airlifted out of New Orleans, teams of Army
veterinarians have been checking pets.
Sheriff John Crawford, a volunteer from Michigan, says he and his team
had been collecting dog food to feed the strays they encounter during
their search for human survivors.
“They tug at your heart strings, and although we can’t help them all we do what we can,” he said.
Of the 1,400 animals at the New Orleans Zoo, just three were reported to have perished – two otters and a raccoon.
More than a dozen staff stayed behind to care for animals at the
facility, which is situated on higher ground, and which escaped flood
But at the Audubon Aquarium in Canal Street, one of the US’s leading aquariums, there was worse news.
Although the institution was not badly hit by the waters, many aquatic
animals perished because life support systems failed amid damage to the
Some were saved however – including a green sea turtle named Midas -
and police officers reportedly stepped in to help feed the penguins.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare is another group that has
been searching door-to-door in New Orleans for pets displaced by
Over the past two days, IFAW has rescued 43 dogs, 41 cats, a snake, a bird, an iguana, a hamster and a 300-pound potbelly pig.
The only way to get the swine into the boat without capsizing the craft
was to build a makeshift floating ramp on the spot, the IFAW said.
Other unusual finds include a couple of chinchillas and 16 dogs that
had been left in the Louisiana State University Medical Center.
A major part of the campaign is a joint effort between the American
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Humane
Society of the United States (HSUS), as well as dozens of local
organisations and thousands of volunteers from across the country.
The Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in nearby Gonzales, Louisiana, has been
serving as a base of operations for the rescue effort and as a
makeshift animal shelter.
The centre has nearly 1,000 horse stalls and often hosts rodeos.
On arrival, the rescued pets are photographed and entered into a
database. Owners have 15 days to claim the animals, then they go up for
adoption. Those looking for their lost pets can log on to
http://www.petfinder.org or call 225-647-0712.
Animals unable to be housed at the centre are being moved to temporary shelters in other areas of Louisiana and Texas