Many areas are accustomed to fires happening on an annual basis but in Australia, it has been a particularly difficult year. When bushfires were encroaching on a coastal town in Southeast Australia, a man saw what was happening and took action. His name is Chad Staples and he worked along with his staff at Mogo Wildlife Park, a local zoo that has a large private collection of exotic animals.
Evacuation orders had already been handed out and the flames were burning closer to the zoo. Workers at the zoo stayed behind to get orangutans and lions to parts of the park that would be safe from the blaze. There was still a need for a place to house a tiger, monkeys and red pandas while the fire was raging.
Zookeepers worked from 6am to save Mogo Wildlife Park, which has Australia’s largest collection of primates as well as giraffes, zebras and rhinos https://t.co/ckDCHZXNBx
— The Sydney Morning Herald (@smh) December 31, 2019
The staff started taking animals home with them, turning their houses into refugee camps for the wildlife. They were able to save a number of creatures that would otherwise have perished. Even people were dying in this wildfire, and at least three have been confirmed dead so far.
There were some 200 animals at the refuge and as of Wednesday morning, all of them were safe.
The zoo’s director, Staples described the scene: “Right now, in my house, there are animals of all descriptions in all the different rooms so that they’re safe and protected,” he told Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“No one is hurt, not a single animal,” Staples said.
A number of monkeys and pandas are being housed by Staples. A tiger is with another staff member in their backyard according to a spokesman for FeatherDale Wildlife, the owner of the zoo via BBC.
“Incredible effort by an amazing team of passionate keepers today,” the zoo said in a tweet. “Every animal is safe and in wonderful care.”
— mogowildlife (@mogowildlife) December 31, 2019
Some of the larger animals, such as rhinos, zebras, and giraffes had to stay at the park. They were sheltered in safe areas.
Staples talked to the Illawarra Mercury newspaper and said his employees were planning for the worst for the week before the blaze. When the time came, they took action and sprayed down animal shelters and nearby grass to keep the blaze from encroaching.
Volunteers were also on hand to help stop any small fires that started on the property. They started work early Tuesday and worked into the night until conditions turned more favorable.
“A couple of hours ago, it felt like Armageddon here,” Staples told ABC. “It was black as midnight, with tinges of red. It was like we were fighting fires in the darkness.”
He said his staff “defended this place like it was their family.”
Everyone had remained vigilant and Staples was hopeful that the zoo had escaped the worst. When he was asked what else was needed by the staff, Staples simply said: “Rain would be nice.”
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