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SOS Rhino : In the News : Current Rhino News : Floods Hit Czech Zoo, Drown Animals

Floods Hit Czech Zoo, Drown Animals

  Wed Aug 14, 7:18 PM ET

By ANDREA LORINCZOVA, Associated Press Writer

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) - Two sea lions escaped and were seen swimming Wednesday in the swollen Vltava River. A gorilla was missing and believed drowned, and an elephant died after keepers couldn't save it from raging waters that had risen to the beast's ears.

Floodwaters were not just misery for humans in the Czech capital — they were causing havoc at the city's zoo and breaking the hearts of animal keepers who had to part with some of their charges.

Kadir, a 35-year-old Indian elephant, was put down along with a hippopotamus that escaped from its corral and became aggressive during the chaos. Two hippos were missing, and zoo spokesman Vit Kahle told The Associated Press that an elderly bear and a lion also were euthanized.

The 6-year-old male gorilla named Pong was feared drowned but nearly all other animals in the Prague Zoological Garden were safe and accounted for, Kahle said.

"We fear that the gorilla is no longer alive because the entire house where it used to live is under water," Kahle said.
Zoo director Petr Fejk said he worried the escaped sea lions might not survive.

"Under normal circumstances, he should survive," Fejk told Czech television. "But he's a zoo animal, so his chances are 50-50."

Four other gorillas were sedated and rescued Tuesday as water continued rising through the zoo, situated on the low-lying and badly flooded outskirts of Prague. They were being moved to another zoo in Dvur Kralove, about 60 miles to the east.

The Prague zoo has moved about 300 animals — mostly monkeys and birds — to higher ground to escape the Vltava, which had risen dangerously after more than 10 days of torrential rainfall. Workers used cranes and slings to move an elephant and two rhinoceroses.

The ferocity of the floodwaters caught the zoo by surprise. The gorilla pavilion was put up just last year and was designed to withstand a major storm, Kahle said.

"On Monday, we were told that a flood, the worst in 20 to 50 years, would come, so we proceeded according to the plan for such levels of water," Fejk said.

"But we didn't touch the pavilions for gorillas and elephants, both projected to resist," a major flood, he said. "On Tuesday, the water was coming too quickly."

The plight of Kadir the elephant, a zoo centerpiece since 1968, inspired Czechs to call in offering money to help save him. Kadir, a large and older male, had been kept separate from the other elephants.

Zbynek Sisa, 56, who took care of Kadir since the elephant was brought to the zoo as a baby 34 years ago, shook his head in disbelief as he described the elephant's final moments.

"We had to shoot him," he said, choking back tears and looking down at his boots. "I have to get over that fact."
"It's a horror that can't be described."

Breaking tender green branches for their snacks, Sisa said he also worried about the zoo's other three elephants, who are nervous about the change in their routine.

Putting the animals out of their misery and losing the gorilla was "the most tragic day for our zoo," Fejk said.



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