Modern 'Noah' Saves Animals from Hurricane
With the help of her husband, David, and her 18-member staff, she evacuated the animals to the Halls' 10-acre spread at Elberta, Ala., 20 miles inland. "It was like Noah's Ark," says Hall, 56, who's director of the zoo.
Noah, at least, had good advance notice and a divinely inspired set of plans. Hall had 16 hours, plus borrowed trucks and cargo vans. Lions, tigers, bears, wolves and other large animals were shot with tranquilizer darts and loaded into cages aboard 18-wheelers, while a pair of enormous yaks (1,400 and 800 lbs.) were coaxed into a cattle trailer, lured inside with loaves of bread.
The very last item was caging the birds. "Frightened bird calls panic the other animals, and the monkeys pick it up and pass the word to everyone," Hall says. "Leaving their zoo homes is very hard for all the animals, because it is the only world they know."
Only reptiles, alligators, three free-roaming peacocks and 22 head of fallow deer were left behind. The snakes' cages in a concrete building were above the expected storm surge, and the alligators could swim if necessary. And they did. Chuckie, an 11-foot 'gator, created a stir when he was missing for a week after Ivan. He showed up Sept. 21 outside of the zoo. The deer were set loose. If tranquilized, Hall says, the deer flail around as they regain consciousness and can easily break a leg. One deer was the only zoo hurricane casualty, drowning when she got tangled in a fence. The rest of the herd straggled home.
Most of the animals are adjusting well, Hall says. A tiger and a cougar refused food at first. And Umba the baboon has some issues, head Zookeeper Cyndi Johnson says. "He is sending a lot of distress calls, and throwing food at the monkeys."
Yet, they are coping, and establishing routines. Still, the storm wreaked havoc on the nonprofit zoo, downing fences and trees and destroying animal habitats. Hall says she has no idea what the final tally will be or when she will be able to bring her babies back there. "This isn't a zoo," she says of domestic life since Ivan. "It's a three-ring circus."