Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast in late August and brought heavy winds and rain, but most of the damage to the southern part of the state was sustained from severe flooding. Immediately after the storm had passed, a network of Texas zoos and aquariums launched emergency response efforts that included unaffected zoos and aquariums sending resources and manpower to those institutions in need. It was determined that our rescue materials and manpower would be needed in Victoria, Texas. On Aug. 30, Fort Worth Zoo Executive Director Michael Fouraker led a six-man team of animal curators, operations managers and engineers to the Texas Zoo in Victoria. The Zoo took ATVs, trailers, chainsaws and other equipment, and lent their expertise to help the local team assess the damage and with cleanup efforts. By the time the Fort Worth Zoo team arrived, many of the Texas Zoo employees hadn’t even been home to assess damage done to their own homes and properties. The Texas Zoo sustained significant flood damage and Zoo staff helped remove downed trees and debris and repaired damaged buildings. There was one animal casualty; however, all staff and the rest of the animal collection were unharmed.
Following Hurricane Harvey, it was determined that a formal emergency response plan should be in place among zoos and aquariums in Texas, should another disaster strike. Zoo Executive Director Mike Fouraker will be meeting with a team of federal, state and local emergency management personnel in early 2018 to discuss emergency planning, prevention and response efforts for future disasters. Fort Worth Zoo vendor and partner Kona Ice generously donated funds to purchase satellite texting units for team members to use while cell coverage remains down in certain areas and to use following future catastrophic weather events. In addition to helping the team support wildlife conservation, these devices will also enhance the safety of the researchers who ride out the storms at the conservation facilities. The Fort Worth Zoo continues to support and aid recovery efforts for these conservation projects and its partners. The Zoo is looking forward to a year of rebuilding and growth in 2018.