Lifestyle & Human Interest

Zookeepers Save 200 Animals from 'Apocalyptic' Fire by Taking Some Home or Bravely Standing Guard


A brave team of staff members from Mogo Zoo in Australia saved 200 animals from a devastating wildfire that threatened to destroy the zoo.

Mogo Zoo is home to the largest private collection of exotic animals in Australia, including primates, giraffes, lions, tigers, southern white rhinos, red pandas and snow leopards.

The 81-acre sanctuary is also directly in the path of the raging 31,000-hectare Clyde Mountain wildfire that has devastated land across Australia.

As the flames encroached on Mogo Zoo property, zoo director Chad Staples and his team had a plan in place.

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Staples told ABC News in Australia that conditions were “apocalyptic,” but that he and his team were prepared to stand their ground to defend the animals and land they loved.

Several of the smaller animals, including red pandas and small monkeys, spent the night in Staples’ 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,” Staples said.

The larger animal species remained at the zoo, coaxed into safer areas to wait out the fire while 15 zookeepers used hoses and water pumps to keep the ground wet and put out any spot fires that threatened to break the perimeter.

“Everything else it was safer to protect them where they call home,” Staples said.

“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.”

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The plan worked, with only a handful of animals exhibiting any signs of stress at all.

“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,” Staples said.

“We were moving vehicles around that had huge amounts of water and pumps and things on them to get to spot fires.”

Staples credited his staff with executing the plan perfectly to save the animals they love “like their family.”

As Mogo Zoo ushered in the year 2020, Staples shared the organization’s one wish: a downpour of heavy rain.

“This is the New Year’s wish come 2020: come on, bring on the rain!” he said.

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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