Unexpected new arrival christened at Prague zoo
The Prague zoo became one of the symbols of last year's floods, its plight made international headlines after its lower half was completely flooded and staff battled frantically to save as many animals as possible. While over 1,000 animals were moved to safety, around ten big mammals and an estimated 80 birds were lost. The hero among the victims was a 12-year-old seal named Gaston who escaped from his pool with a wave of floodwater and swam around 120 kilometres down the swollen Vltava and Elbe rivers. He was recaptured in Germany five days later, but died from shock and exhaustion. However, to the zookeepers' great surprise, many months after Gaston's escape, his mate Bara gave birth to a daughter - who was christened at the zoo on Sunday.
"We chose the name Abeba which means "flower" in an African language," says one of the seal keepers who carried little Abeba, a wet, black, whiskered creature, the size of a small dog, while she was christened on Sunday in front of a huge crowd that gathered around the seal pool despite the scorching heat."
"We are baptising Gaston's daughter Abeba. Please open the champagne, and I am kindly asking our guests to wish her all the best."
The zoo's director Petr Fejk was among the many who worked night and day to try and evacuate as many animals as possible during the disastrous August days. A few animals which were beyond rescue had to be put down - and Petr Fejk describes that as the most tragic moments of his life. Understandably, the unexpected new arrival was welcomed by all in the zoo with great emotion.
A year after the devastating floods, the Prague zoo has been restored much to its original state and welcomes keen visitors who have helped the zoo to recover over the year with their donations, by buying the zoo's souvenirs, by volunteer work or just by coming there in large numbers to see the animals and events like Sunday's christening ceremony.