Zoo could see 'controlled chaos' before Hurricane Sandy

The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore is preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, following what zoo officials describe as an "extensive preparedness plan."

It starts several days out of the weather event and is constantly reviewed for changes and improvements.

As of Saturday morning, according to zoo spokesperson Jane Ballentine, an inventory of important items (medical supplies, food, batteries, spotlights, etc.) was taken; chainsaws were inspected and deemed in working order and plenty of gas and fuel purchased for vehicles and generators to last through several days. The zoo has also removed shaded parts of exhibits that could come loose and harm animals or exhibits.

"It kinda progresses from there," she said.

While the zoo remains open through the weekend for its ZooBooo! event, Ballentine said plenty is being done behind the scenes. Among things that still need to be done -- stocking up on dry ice and deciding what to do with the animals in the aviary.

Dry ice is needed to preserve food for animals and employees. Though the hospital at the zoo has its own generator, Ballentine says dry ice is also an important supply to have available in the event the generator kicks the bucket.

"It is not as much that we expect animal injuries, but all the medicine and supplies we have need to be stored at certain temperatures," she said.

Animal welfare is the top priority for the zoo as they work to prepare for the storm. Ballentine says most of the animals will be secure in the same indoor barns they sleep in every night. She says getting them safely to the barns is as easy as blowing a whistle or ringing a bell.

Birds in the aviary, secured only by mesh and chain fencing, are a concern. A downed tree could easily damage the structure and birds inside. If the zoo decides to remove the birds from the aviary into a more secure indoor location, Ballentine says it will be "controlled chaos."

"It's a very well-controlled process, but it is not like blowing a whistle," she said.

As far as animal instinct in regard to he arrival of the storm, Ballentine said most of the animals should be calm and comfortable as they will be in their normal indoor homes. The elephants, she says, are probably the most likely to respond in a defensive way to the storm.

"You just have to keep their routine going and stay calm," she said. "You really have to maintain your composure around them, that helps."

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