Prague zoo shares flood experience with Tbilisi

People help a hippopotamus escape from a flooded zoo in Tbilisi, Georgia, June 14, 2015, photo: CTK

A group of experts from Czech zoos has left for the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to help the city’s zoo, which was hit by a devastating flood last week. Prague Zoo, which experienced similar disasters in 2002 and 2013, will provide advice as well as practical help.

People help a hippopotamus escape from a flooded zoo in Tbilisi,  Georgia,  June 14,  2015,  photo: CTK
Heavy flooding in Tbilisi, caused be heavy rains last week, has claimed the lives of at least twelve people. Three of the bodies were found on the premises of the city’s zoo, which was one of the places most hard hit by the disaster. Along with the human deaths the floodwater drowned hundreds of animals. Meanwhile, lions, tigers and jaguars swept out of their enclosures escaped into the streets.

In response to the developments in Georgia, Prague Zoo has launched a fund-raising campaign to support their colleagues. They have also put together a team of experts who have already left for the Georgian capital. Jana Ondrejechová is the spokeswoman for Prague Zoo:

“The team of skilled experienced keepers from the Czech Republic left for Tbilisi on Monday. They consist of seven people, five of them are from Prague zoo and two of other are from other Czech zoos in Ústí nad Labem and Zlín. Those people, especially the team-leader Petr Velenský, have direct experience with floods in Prague in 2002 and 2013, so we are we are pretty sure they can be useful.”

The body of a bear lies at a flooded zoo area in Tbilisi,  Georgia,  June 14,  2015,  photo: CTK
How exactly are they going to help their colleagues in Georgia?

“For now, it is mostly about doing anything that is necessary to be done. First of all, they will provide moral support to their colleagues. They will also help as professional keepers but they are also ready to help with the cleaning.”

Based on your experience, what is the most important thing to do in the immediate aftermath of the floods?

“I think the most important thing is to clean up the premises. The last information that we have is that there is a lot of mud, so people are cleaning that and they are looking for animals underneath that can still be alive.”

What about the animals that are running around in the streets?

Photo: CTK
“The last news we have is that there are no more animals in the streets. One animal might still be missing, but all of the others were caught. So there shouldn’t be any other problems. But of course animals that escape from the zoo are really frightened and that’s the main reason why they can be dangerous for people. But now it’s mainly about cleaning the place and providing care for the animals that survived.”

According to the head of Prague Zoo, Miroslav Bobek, it would be too complicated to transport any of the stranded animals all the way to Prague, but other zoological gardens from the region, such as the one in Yerevan, Armenia, have already offered their help.