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Lehigh Valley Zoo Animals to Hunker Down for Irene

Lehigh Valley Zoo staff expects exhibits to fare well but will be checking fencing.

Herd animals like bison and elk have an instinct for knowing when to hunker down, which is one reason the Lehigh Valley Zoo isn’t shipping the animals elsewhere to ride out the coming storm.

Richard Rosevear, the zoo’s general curator, said he expects the bison and elk around the facility’s perimeter to bed down and stay low to the ground if high winds and heavy rains hit this weekend as expected.

“They know it’s coming long before we do,” he said. “They can detect changes in barometric pressure.”

The bigger concern is that a hurricane could knock down trees that would put a hole in the chain link and high-tension fencing, from which the herds could get out. They don’t want a bunch of bison running around Schnecksville so staff will be checking the fences periodically.

As for other animals, the popular lorikeets will come inside their own building and the camels, zebras and ostriches all have shelters. The wolves can be put in kennels where they live when not on exhibit. The kennels have covers and “dogloos,” which are plastic doghouses in the shape of an igloo. “I think the structures will withstand high winds,” he said.

The zoo was preparing to have generators in place to make sure it would have power for refrigeration and habitat support systems, such as filter and circulation systems for the otters and penguins and heat for the reptiles.

Rosevear said it’s likely that the Jordan Creek down the hill from the zoo could overflow its banks, which would block one exit road. But the other entrance/exit is on higher ground and staff can get to the bison and elk herds to feed them, he said.  

Asked if a strong storm would upset the animals, Rosevear said some might feel some stress but overall he thought they’d be fine. “In nature, if they were all living in the wild, they’d be experiencing some extreme weather in their habitats, one way or another,” he said. “So they’re geared to it.”

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