How Zoo Animals, Mountain Lions, Llamas and a Giraffe Survived L.A. Wildfires

Devastating wildfires in Los Angeles have burned more than 97,000 acres, forcing thousands of human and animal residents to evacuate. Here’s how some captive and wild animals survived this disaster.

Los Angeles Zoo Animals Evacuated

When a brush fire in Griffith Park burned perilously close to the Los Angeles Zoo on Nov. 9, the staff evacuated some animals, including the birds featured in its “World of Birds” show and some small primates. The 133-acre zoo keeps 1,400 animals in captivity.

“We turned on sprinklers & began hosing the hillside,” the zoo tweeted. “It doesn’t appear the smoke is causing issues for animals but staff is monitoring conditions.” Later that day, the zoo posted an update on its Facebook page saying the fire did not enter the zoo grounds.

“No animals or plant life within zoo grounds were harmed,” it said. “The animals that were relocated have been safely moved back to their habitats and are doing well.”

All zoos that the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) accredits, including the Los Angeles Zoo, must have a risk management plan in place for the animals. The AZA also requires them to perform at least four preparedness drills annually for emergencies like wildfires and other disasters.

Mountain Lion Habitat Destroyed

Mountain lions that make their homes in the Santa Monica Mountains are already struggling to survive. They must risk crossing busy freeways to leave their limited habitat, and are plagued by health problems caused by incest and the ingestion of rodenticides. And now the so-called Woolsey Fire that spread through these mountains from the San Fernando Valley to Malibu has decimated their habitat. It’s sad and shocking that the vast majority – 83 percent – of federal parkland in the Santa Monica Mountains has burned. The good news is that as of Nov. 14, 11 of 13 mountain lions in the area that are equipped with GPS collars are alive and moving, according to social media posts from the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The most famous L.A. mountain lion, P-22, was among the ones they haven’t heard from, but KABC reported the happy news on its 11 pm newscast that he survived the fire.

In Agoura Hills, the area surrounding the 101 freeway where a wildlife crossing is planned also burned, which should be more impetus to build that bridge ASAP to help these animals escape.

Exotic Animals Left to Fend for Themselves

In a decision that has sparked outrage, Malibu Wine Safaris, which keeps over 100 animals in captivity including camels, water buffalo, zebras and a giraffe named Stanley, decided to leave the animals to fend for themselves in a pasture as the Woolsey Fire approached.

The fire destroyed what the tourist attraction referred to in social media posts as “a considerable portion” of its barns and facilities – and “a small number of animals” were missing. Unlike the Los Angeles Zoo, Malibu Wine Safaris is not accredited by the AZA and is not required to have evacuation plans.

“We have to determine whether we shelter in place or whether we risk loading into a trailer,” Dakota Semler, the owner of Malibu Wine Safaris, told KABC. “And particularly with exotics when you have events like this, it can get out of hand quickly and they can go into shock, and in many cases you have risk of hurting them.”

So why risk hurting exotic animals by keeping them in captivity in a fire zone from which they can’t be quickly evacuated? Fortunately, Stanley the giraffe was among the animals that survived. “It’s upsetting,” his veterinarian, Jennifer Conrad, told KABC. “But the truth is that he’s OK.”

Sanctuary Animals Evacuated to the Beach

Rescued horses, llamas and alpacas that provide therapeutic interaction to disadvantaged children and families needed some help of their own when the Woolsey Fire burned close to their home at the Big Heart Ranch in Malibu. They were transported to Zuma Beach to be in close proximity to the safety of the water.

Two alpacas and a miniature horse that were tied to a lifeguard station were thought to have gone missing, but fortunately, according to an update on Big Heart Ranch’s Instagram, they had been taken by volunteers about 35 miles away to Simi Valley, where they were safe and sound.

Another animal evacuated to a Malibu beach — but without human assistance. Perhaps one of the most stunning photos of wildlife taken during the fire is that of a displaced owl far from its home, sitting alone on the sand.

Take Action

Please read How to Help California Wildlife Survivors for important information about how to assist people and animals affected by these disasters.

Sign this petition urging the California Department of Transportation to start building the wildlife corridor across the 101 freeway ASAP.

A giraffe and other exotic animals that can’t be quickly evacuated to safety should not be kept in a winery vulnerable to wildfires. If you agree, please sign and share this petition telling the owner of Malibu Wine Safari to move the surviving animals to a sanctuary in a safer place.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

112 comments

Marija M
Marija M20 days ago

Glad for them, tks.

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Nita L
Nita L20 days ago

Petition signed and shared Nov. 13, 2018. Article shared. I'm glad these animals are safe. Thank you.

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Toni W
Toni W21 days ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W21 days ago

TYFS

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heather g
heather g21 days ago

I signed the Petition months ago - At least some people were planning ahead for emergencies.

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michela c
michela c22 days ago

Poor animals...thank you to the rescued.

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michela c
michela c22 days ago

*rescuers

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Arlene C
Arlene C23 days ago

merci pour l'info

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Virgene L
Virgene L23 days ago

Wonderful news! Big thanks to the staffs at the zoo, winery and rescue for saving their animals! Having those sprinklers set and hosing down the hillside was a real winner. Please be sure to be prepared again, for it may happen in the future. Blessings.

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Marion F
Marion F23 days ago

Poor babies, signed the petition for Stanley the Giraffe, but can´t post/share it on #Facepoop anymore since they mark every petition as SPAM & delete it now!!!

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