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Archive for Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Heavy rains may keep zoo closed for weeks

May 30, 2007

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— About half of the Hutchinson Zoo remained under water Sunday during what is normally one of its busiest weekends of the year.

The zoo has been closed since Thursday after more than 7 inches of rain fell during a four-hour period Wednesday night. The rain flooded a big pond on the northeast section of Carey Park, just outside the zoo.

Zoo Director Charlotte Poepperling said the loss of visitors won't hurt the facility financially because it doesn't charge admission.

The water level had dropped by about 6 inches by Sunday, but she said it needed to recede more before the extent of damage could be determined. She said other zoos have offered to help house animals while repairs are made.

"I'm hoping that within a couple of weeks we can be back in business," she said.

Normally, the zoo features about 160 animals, most of them native to the region. A rehabilitation facility houses another 10 to 30 animals, depending on the time of year.

No animals were killed or injured in the flooding. About 25 were evacuated from the facility.

Others were hard to reach. Zoo staff members are using boats to get to bison congregating in a dry spot in their enclosure, Poepperling said.

She said zoo workers were able to pump water from a birds of prey exhibit and the birds were able to perch in dry areas.

The zoo's water-loving otters remained in their soggy exhibit, but zoo staff had to wear rubber boots to reach them. A tunnel designed to give children a closer look at the zoo's prairie dogs was filled with water.

Poepperling said some of the worst flooding was in a building where wildlife is rehabilitated.

"The hard part is this is heavy rehab season," she said. "We are trying to divert, but there aren't that many places that do rehab."

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