ENVIRONMENT
09/09/2017 12:32 pm ET Updated Sep 09, 2017

See How Miami's Biggest Zoo Is Preparing For Hurricane Irma

The flamingos won't be in the bathroom this time.

Preparing for a major hurricane is even more complicated when you have more than 3,000 wild animals in your care.

Zoo Miami, also known as the Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens, has spent the past few days making sure its facilities are ready for the wrath of Hurricane Irma, which is now expected to make landfall in Florida on Sunday.

Senior keeper Jennifer Nelson walks a cheetah to a shelter ahead of Hurricane Irma.
Adrees Latif / Reuters
Senior keeper Jennifer Nelson walks a cheetah to a shelter ahead of Hurricane Irma.

There are several reasons why it doesn’t make sense to evacuate thousands of animals from the zoo, communications director Ron Magill told NPR this week. For one thing, transporting the animals can cause stress so great that it could kill them. Plus, the zoo wrote on Facebook, hurricanes’ paths can change so quickly that evacuating the animals could wind up putting them in more danger.

Magill told the Miami Herald that the zoo learned a lot of lessons after weathering Hurricane Andrew 25 years ago. That was the first time the zoo herded a flock of flamingos into a bathroom, resulting in an iconic, widely circulated photo. Flamingos rode out the storm in bathrooms during Hurricanes Georges and Floyd, too.

Flamingos huddle in a bathroom during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
Tim Chapman via Getty Images
Flamingos huddle in a bathroom during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

This time around, the flamingos, like many of the zoo’s residents, will be kept inside concrete enclosures that Magill told NPR are strong enough to withstand “the strength of a major hurricane.”

Take a look at some of the photos of the zoo readying animals for the storm:

  • Brown pelicans and an American white pelican take shelter at Zoo Miami.
    Adrees Latif / Reuters
    Brown pelicans and an American white pelican take shelter at Zoo Miami.
  • Flamingos take refuge inside a steel and concrete enclosure
    Adrees Latif / Reuters
    Flamingos take refuge inside a steel and concrete enclosure
  • A zookeeper guides an Indian white-rumped vulture into a crate.
    Adrees Latif / Reuters
    A zookeeper guides an Indian white-rumped vulture into a crate.
  • Cheetahs are moved into a shelter to ride out the storm.
    Adrees Latif / Reuters
    Cheetahs are moved into a shelter to ride out the storm.
  • An African grey parrot at Miami Zoo.
    Adrees Latif / Reuters
    An African grey parrot at Miami Zoo.
  • Senior keeper Jennifer Nelson walks a cheetah to a shelter.
    Adrees Latif / Reuters
    Senior keeper Jennifer Nelson walks a cheetah to a shelter.
  • Brown pelicans and an American white pelican inside a shelter.
    Adrees Latif / Reuters
    Brown pelicans and an American white pelican inside a shelter.
  • A macaw looks out of a shelter cage.
    Adrees Latif / Reuters
    A macaw looks out of a shelter cage.
  • Cheetahs inside an enclosure that zookeepers say will be able to weather Hurricane Irma.
    Adrees Latif / Reuters
    Cheetahs inside an enclosure that zookeepers say will be able to weather Hurricane Irma.
  • An African-crested porcupine inside a kennel.
    Adrees Latif / Reuters
    An African-crested porcupine inside a kennel.
  • Flamingos take refuge in a shelter.
    Adrees Latif / Reuters
    Flamingos take refuge in a shelter.
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