New Orleans Zoo and Aquarium faring well since hurricane
Rhett A. Butler,
September 4, 2005 (updated 11:56 am Eastern)
Sept 9 Update: Surviving animals moved from aquarium

This is an update from a story posted earlier.

The Audubon Zoo, the Aquarium of the Americas, the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species in New Orleans survived Hurricane Katrina relatively unscathed according to reports from operators of the facilities. However, in neighboring Mississippi, the Gulport Marine Life Oceanarium aquarium was totally destroyed.

Dan Maloney, general curator at the Audubon Zoo, reports that although "attendance is really down," the staff that have stayed at the zoo are doing fine. The only animal still unaccounted for at the zoo is a crocodile.

During the storm, loss of animal life was reportedly limited to a pair of river otters at the zoo and a whooping crane at the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species (ACRES). Animal keepers were flown in by helicopter soon after the hurricane passed and supplies will soon be arriving by boat from Baton Rouge Zoo.

Animal food stocks are holding up well except for some of the specialty items such as waxworms and crickets, while humans have found their own food supplies on zoo grounds. There is enough fuel to keep generators running for quite some time and since the zoo was so well prepared for this disaster, emergency workers and police actually are coming to the zoo to get their vehicles fueled.

Security directly around the facilities are not a concern, though gunshots have been heard in the area. Increased police and military presence in the city means the aquarium staff should be able to get back in the building soon.

Maloney says the biggest concern now is the psychological impact of the low flying helicopters on zoo animals. The zoo also has a number of downed trees.

Special thanks to Lorien Shaw for assistance in preparing this update.

A Sept 4 report from the Chicago Tribute says that details are sketchy on the current status of the aquarium. While the facility escaped physical damage from the hurricane, mounting violence in the area forced officials to evacuate keepers late last week. Staff may have returned since the evacuation.

Jane Ballentine, a spokeswoman for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, said "It's very difficult to get information still about what is happening. We're trying to establish a safe route to bring in more supplies. Once there is a route open to us, we'll be able to mobilize and get them what they need."

The accompanying email from Dr. Bill Foster, President of the Audubon Nature Institute which administers the Audubon Zoo, the Aquarium of the Americas, the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species, mentions that their is an opportunity for people to donate money to help.

Letter from Dr. Bill Foster, AZA President
    Dear Colleagues,

    First and foremost, on behalf of the Audubon Nature Institute - the Audubon Zoo, the Aquarium of the Americas, the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species and their staff - let me thank you for the calls, the e-mails and the generous offers of help. I am so proud to be a part of the AZA zoo and aquarium community that works together, plays together and comes together to support one another in times of crisis. This is indeed one of the most devastating crises to faced by our community in many, many years.

    As noted in Kris Vehrs update on 1 September, we know that the Audubon Zoo crew are doing okay and are in good spirits. Ron Forman is in the city, and is coordinating zoo and aquarium security with the New Orleans police and fire departments. As we get new information, we will be continuing to pass it on to you, as well as posting updates on the AZA website.

    I need your help and understanding. We are all anxious to provide assistance, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that New Orleans is an extremely dangerous place to be right now. The decision makers are on the ground and aware of all your offers of help. That said we must respect the fact that Ron and his staff are on the ground and operating with the best perspective and information. IN ADDITION, INDIVIDUALS SHOULD NOT ACT ON THEIR OWN BUT COORDINATE THROUGH AZA TO ENSURE THEIR SAFETY.

    Getting assistance to our colleagues is problematic at this time due to emergency restrictions; however, we are preparing our plan and will be ready with immediate assistance when supply routes are open.

    There are also many of us who are trying to reach those with ultimate authority who can perhaps ease restrictions, allowing supplies to be brought to staff and animals both. We are in direct contact with Dr. Betsy Dresser and beginning to coordinate plans for getting supplies to ACRES and the Aquarium of the Americas. We will let you know, as we need your assistance.

    The Houston and Baton Rouge Zoos will be coordinating the physical efforts for the Zoo once we can get access to New Orleans. Rick Barongi and Phil Frost and their teams are busy with coordination and they ask you to call AZA with offers of help. If you want to help in any way, pleasevisit You will be contacted as needs are determined and mobilization plans are set. PLEASE DO NOT CALL HOUSTON ZOO OR BATON ROUGE ZOO WITH OFFERS OF ASSISTANCE.

    We do have one very exciting new development. To further aid Audubon Nature Institute, its employees and their families, I have asked Lincoln Park Zoo President and CEO Kevin Bell to spearhead a fund-raising initiative to assist our colleagues in New Orleans as they move beyond this tragedy and begin to rebuild their homes, their lives and the wonderful facilities of the Audubon Nature Institute.

    Kevin Bell has agreed, and I thank him and his staff for taking on this great need.

    You will be hearing from Kevin later today with more specifics about the initiative and how you can involve your institution and provide the public that may contact you an avenue to help in this important relief effort.

    The Executive Committee of the AZA Board of Directors will handle the distribution of these funds.

    In addition, we are also establishing a mechanism for helping displaced Audubon Nature Institute staff obtain jobs and temporary housing. You will be hearing additional information as things are put into place.

    For those of you who have planned to participate in AZAs Annual Conference in Chicago later this month - I ask that you do come and join us. We are a caring family of people committed to advancing science and research, to educating everyone who walks through our doors and to encouraging our visitors to have fun while exploring the natural world. It is important that we come together, stay connected and support one another during these challenging times. We can do so most effectively if we come together and work together.

    Thank you again for the overwhelming displays of generosity you have shown for our colleagues. It is not a surprise, but continues to be very meaningful.


    Bill Foster
    AZA President

If you want to help in any way, please visit

Other ways to help

If you have further information on the condition of the aquarium and related facilities, please contact me

Other resources:

September 4, 2005 (updated 11:56 am Eastern) (September 02, 2005).

New Orleans Aquarium and Zoo faring well since hurricane.