'Our Prayers Were Answered': Mogo Zoo And Animals Saved From Inferno
A last-minute wind change and a comprehensive fire plan have managed to get all the animals and people at Mogo Zoo through the worst of the passing bushfire.
Chad Staples, the Director of Life Sciences, led around 15 staff in firefighting efforts on Tuesday.
"It was burning all around, we were putting out fires on-site with huge tankers on the backs of trucks everywhere," he told 10 daily.
"We were very busy, it was hectic and really full-on for awhile there – the sky was black as midnight."
Some of the 200 animals were removed from enclosures and moved into Staples' on-site home in pet packs.
"My house is full of animals of all descriptions in different rooms but the dangerous animals like lions, tigers and gorillas were in night dens with food and water, where they were safe and calm."
Some questioned online why the zoo didn't remove animals when the nearby village of Mogo evacuated.
"There are animals here where it's not practical to say 'okay, we’re leaving'. So our plan was to protect them here and make this the safe place."
The plan has been in place for a week and firefighting efforts started at 6 am this morning.
“The zoo is only okay because of the amazing staff," Staples said.
"Everyone is so passionate about what they do, and we were able to fight a very serious fire that was bearing right down on us," he said.
"We had no assistance from emergency services whatsoever because resources were needed in so many places but we felt very isolated."
The team will remain on fire watch and begin assessing any damage to perimeter fencing and enclosures before returning animals.
"You can still see fire where we are but the horrendous huge fire that was there has gone. Our prayers were answered - the wind changed direction."
Some staff from nearby Bateman's Bay were unable to reach the site due to fire danger but those that could worked hard to prepare the zoo.
The Clyde Mountain Fire is classed as out of control and is more than 31,000 hectares in size.
The zoo is just a five-minute drive from Mogo village itself, where a number of businesses- including the popular Mogo Lolly Shop - have been evacuated.
At this stage, the bushfire remains on the other side of Tomakin Road, away from the zoo.
Mogo Zoo is home to Australia's largest collection of primates as well as a number of animals including zebras, southern white rhinos, giraffes and red pandas.
Sydney's Featherdale Wildlife Park took over control of the facility in November.