The capital’s worse winter storm in decades resulted in the deaths of six exotic animals from the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, and has seriously imperiled the lives of hundreds of homeless dogs and cats living at the city’s largest animal shelter.
According to the zoo’s spokesperson, Sigalit Herz, while safety measures protecting the vast majority of animals there were thoroughly observed, two flamingos, two infant collared peccaries and two Hammer Kopfs from the aviary marsh fell victim to the harsh conditions.
“The flamingos are a really sad story because many of the older trees collapsed from the snow and two of them were killed by a huge one that fell at the exhibit,” said Herz Sunday, adding that the zoo’s remaining 30 flamingos were not harmed during the storm.
“The aviary is such a big place that we could not gather all the birds to protect them,” she said of the Hammer Kopfs birds that also died.
Herz added that two infant collared peccaries – indigenous to South America and similar in appearance to pigs – also perished.
“We had a huge group of them breeding very well in a large shelter, but two of the youngsters died because of the cold temperatures,” she said. “Peccaries don’t require heating because they congregate closely and have thick fur, but the two little ones were still vulnerable.”
Herz said extra precautions have been taken with the zoo’s large mammals – including chimps, lions, tigers, elephants leopards, rhinos, giraffes – all of which will remain in heated shelters until the cold temperatures pass.
“Chimps and other mammals can get the flu just like human beings, so we have to be very careful,” she said.
Herz attributed the deaths to the deadly combination of frigid temperatures and fallen tree limbs, resulting in the zoo’s temporary closure until repairs are made.
“There is so much work to be done, including cutting limbs off trees and fixing bushes that were bent by all the snow,” she said.
In the meantime, Herz said the remaining animals are not in danger and that she hopes the zoo will reopen Monday afternoon.
“We’re using extra heat and it’s clear the animals want to go outside again,” she said. “We will gradually release them from the shelters as the temperatures go up.”
Meanwhile, the powerful storm also destroyed the electrical wiring at Jerusalem’s SPCA, rendering heating systems for the hundreds of homeless dogs and cats there useless.
The situation has become so dire that the animal shelter created a Facebook page to beseech the public to make small donations to the anti-euthenization organization, presently inhabited by over 380 animals, including 180 dogs and 200 cats.
Further endangering the animals are destroyed roofing, tarps and other weather coverings in the facility’s yard, which could not withstand the storm, exposing hundreds of the cats and dogs to freezing temperatures.
The SPCA said the animals can be saved if 600 donors contribute $50 each, adding that necessary emergency supplies include – but are not limited to – heating lamps, bedding, rain screens and roofing repairs.
“Local volunteers are there caring for the animals even in the worst weather,” the organization wrote in a statement Sunday. “Please donate today to keep these sweet dogs and cats warm and dry and consider adopting one of these wonderful animals.”
For more information on making donations to the SPCA, please go to its Facebook page at facebook.com/jspca, or its website at jspca.org.il/en.