Wild Animal Safari Pine Mountain in Troup County, Georgia is rebuilding after a devastating tornado destroyed parts of the park. Katie Harrison, the zoo director, spoke with Channel 2 Action News about the progress made in cleaning up the damage. During the storm, thousands of trees were uprooted and almost every animal enclosure was either damaged or destroyed. Two tigers managed to escape their enclosure, but were quickly tranquilized and returned to their repaired enclosure.
Sadly, five animals lost their lives in the storm. Harrison expressed her grief, saying that it was a “horrible, horrible, I mean, huge tornado” and that it was the first time she was able to talk about it without sobbing.
The cleanup process has been complicated by the noise of the machinery, which can be distressing to some of the animals. Some animals have had to be moved to other zoos while their exhibits are being repaired. Additionally, the park is closed during a crucial time for business as spring break is a huge time for the park.
According to Lisa Brady, the park estimates a loss of $750,000 in revenue, which is 10% of their annual business. The park had been preparing for spring break, with several new enclosures being built and upgrades being made, but the storm caused significant setbacks.
Despite the challenges, Harrison is hopeful that the park will be able to reopen the driving portion of the park later this month. The walking portion will be opened in sections and is expected to reopen in June.
Natural disasters can be devastating for any business, but the impact is even greater for a wild animal park. According to the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, zoos in the US welcome over 180 million visitors each year, generating over $20 billion in economic activity. It is important for these parks to have emergency plans in place to protect both their animals and their business.