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Zoo team battle through the night to keep animals warm after storm Franklin power outage

PUBLISHED 22/02/22

Sussex Zoo team battle through the night to keep animals warm after storm Franklin power outage

Drusillas Park, near Alfriston East Sussex, is among venues and residences suffering total power outages after Storm Franklin ravaged the area on Sunday night. The visitor attraction has been forced to remain closed for a second day – the longest power cut experienced in the last few decades.

The Park’s estate team have been pulling shifts through the night to ensure vital backup generators have enough petrol to power crucial heaters in animal enclosures. Keepers are working round the clock, donning head torches to navigate the zoo’s now dark working areas to keep animals fed, watered, and cared for – some have even taken to cuddling animals to keep them warm.

Fallen trees and debris littered the visitor attraction after Storm Eunice hit on Friday, and the Park’s team were still working to clear and rebuild the damage over the weekend, before more extreme weather arrived on Sunday evening resulting in a total loss of power.

Head keeper, Gemma Romanis commented: “In preparation for storm Eunice on Friday, we took a number of our animals inside to protect them. On Saturday, we worked from very early in the morning to remove and rebuild the damage, and were able by Sunday to settle our animals such as lemurs and squirrel monkeys back into their public enclosures. We’ve been multi-tasking, helping the estate team, carrying tree trunks, building fences, you name it – there was so much to fix it became all hands on deck to try and get the Park fit for public again.”

“Just when we thought we’d got on top of it, the power cut hit on Monday morning and everyone had to dive in again. We aren’t able to heat all the Zoo enclosures at once with the generators, so we had to plan some tactical animal move arounds to get those that need heat into the areas we could keep warm. We were most concerned about our reptiles, armadillos, anteaters, and sloths – especially with the infant sloth who is just a few months old, who would be in considerable danger if she couldn’t keep warm.”

“Warmth isn’t the only issue; our electric fences also went down, which creates a risk of escape – luckily our automatic backup batteries kicked in, but thorough checks are being carried out constantly. We’re pleased to report all our animals are safe and warm now.”

“The team have been phenomenal, working round the clock in the face of relentless issues, and in times like this our team are amazing at pulling together and working totally cohesively to get everything done.”

With 800 animals in residence at the Zoo, priority when the power failed was to ensure the correct temperatures and conditions could be maintained for each of the exotic species, to limit any stress or upset that could cause serious health concerns or potential loss of life.

With an enormous number of power failures to contend with, UK Power Network has yet to visit Drusillas to assess the fault, and so the Park has no idea when the situation will improve. Thousands of people who had planned to visit over the West Sussex half term have been left without certainty on whether the Park can open its doors before the school holiday is over.

Managing Director, Cassie Poland, spoke about the crisis: “This is absolutely devastating for us, and so many others in the area. Our priority is always the animals, and we are so lucky we have the team we do as they jump into action without hesitation in these situations. But beyond keeping the animals warm, we have fridges and freezers full of food, staff unable to work, no access to our booking systems or phone lines, and a huge number of people who’s plans have been ruined and no answers to give them.”

The Park are announcing updates on the situation as and when they have them, and urge anyone planning visits to please check their social pages and website before deciding the travel. They have asked all their supporters to keep fingers, toes, paws, and claws crossed for good news soon!

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