Dade City zoo open after Sunday storm felled trees, damaged cages
Florida panther Mariah, age 2, watches as the cleanup continues from damage Sunday when large limbs from trees fell during a storm at Dade City's Wild Things zoo. ANDY JONES/STAFF
Published: March 28, 2013
Updated: March 28, 2013 at 08:30 AM
Just days after a severe storm knocked down trees, damaging several enclosures, including one for the wildly popular Mystery Monkey named Cornelius, Dade City's Wild Things was open for business. Tours continued Wednesday as a crew of volunteers feverishly repaired cages and cleaned up debris. On Sunday, as one of the park's tigers gave birth, winds ripped through the area, downing trees and power lines. No animals were injured during the storm. The roof of one enclosure, which houses a 2-year-old Florida panther, Mariah, was so severely damaged that she could have escaped. Kathy Stearns, the zoo's director, said earlier this week that Mariah was too scared to leave the enclosure and instead waited for zoo workers to arrive.
On Wednesday, Mariah continued her temporary stay in a smaller, chain-link home. The 8-foot-tall enclosure for a coatimundi, a mammal in the raccoon family, was compressed to just 2 feet after a tree landed on it. The coatimundi also was relocated until repairs could be made. Cages holding an iguana and a bird also were damaged. Stearns estimated at least $20,000 in damages to the zoo. A crew of about 25 volunteers has been working since Sunday night to make repairs. “There's going to be areas that (guests) are not going to be able to go to,” Stearns said. “A lot of caution tape, which it's not going to be as presentable as we'd like it to be, but it'll be safe.” Nakita, a Bengal tiger, gave birth to cubs that weighed about 1 pound each, Stearns said. The tiger cubs are eating every 45 minutes and have yet to be named. “Really haven't had time to concentrate on that,” Stearns said, laughing. “I'm sure we'll come up with some funny name like Stormie or something. It will have to be something storm related.” In addition to downed trees, there were power lines that had been yanked from their posts. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission called TECO on behalf of the zoo to put the facility on a priority status, Stearns said. Once that happened, TECO repaired the lines. “They came fairly fast,” Stearns said.