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Why Do We Need Planning and Coalition Building in the Exotic Animal Industry?

Managing animals during emergencies can be complicated and dangerous, particularly when it comes to exotic species. Domestic companion animal and livestock needs have been well addressed with the formation of different non-governmental, state, and local animal response organizations*, but exotic and injurious native wildlife require many unique considerations in disaster response.

The expertise needed to manage non-domestic species safely lies with the people who work with them every day at zoos, aquariums, sanctuaries and other managed wildlife facilities. While these professionals understand the behavior and  biology of the species they are charged with, and possess the equipment needed to manage them safely on a daily basis, they do not possess all the knowledge and training required to manage a disaster or disease response.

ZAHP created these documents to help lead zoo and aquarium professionals through considerations for how to better organize themselves to respond safely and effectively to non-domestic animal issues in disasters. The key is to learn from other response organizations, understand the process of emergency management, and remain safe for the best possible outcomes.

Development of these documents was led by Sharron Stewart, former Director of Emergency Programs at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.

*Much of the early history of coalition building for animal response to emergencies or disasters comes from the state of North Carolina after Hurricane Floyd. We owe our thanks to those visionaries who began the discussion on this important topic.

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A dedicated team of Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo staff from New Braunfels, Texas answered the Alexandria Zoo’s call for help in Louisiana when they were hit by Hurricane Laura in 2020. Together, staff from both zoos reconstructed damaged zoo infrastructure and cleared debris from the storm. Credit: Animal World & Snake Farm Zoo

Members of the Detroit Zoo team meet with first responders participating in a full scale training exercise on zoo grounds.

Credit: Detroit Zoological Society