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Alexandria Zoo still working on repairs after two hurricanes

Hurricane Laura left extensive damage, while Hurricane Delta added more minor damage
Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 4:51 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Dr. Max Lakes was introduced as the new Director of the Alexandria Zoo on Wednesday. His first project is tackling the recovery from Hurricanes Laura and Delta, which left extensive damage to the zoo.

“The zoo was hit hard and from then to now when I came for my interview and actually got boots on the ground, it was just absolutely amazing the difference in such a short time,” Lakes said.

Laura’s powerful winds heavily damaged multiple exhibits and virtually destroyed four of them. The Cassowary, Maine Wolf, Australian Walkabout and the Cougar habitat were all destroyed. Cougars Jack and Diane had to be relocated to the Baton Rouge Zoo for a temporary vacation while their habitat is being repaired.

“They are doing really well. Their living quarters were pretty much destroyed so it wasn’t possible to keep them here. They’re doing really well. We get updates from Baton Rouge and we’re looking to have them back hopefully very soon,” Lakes said.

Extensive repairs are still being made on four exhibits at the Alexandria Zoo after they were...
Extensive repairs are still being made on four exhibits at the Alexandria Zoo after they were damaged by Hurricane Laura.(KALB)

Since August, the zoo has made progress - installing new roofs, pouring concrete and removing the huge trees that blocked walkways and crushed exhibits.

“Some of the large tree trunks we’re actually saving so that way we can put them in their habitats and use them as enrichment to better their life,” Lakes said.

Unfortunately, with all the work that needed to be done, the zoo lights won’t be happening this year.

“As beautiful as they are, we start putting them up at the end of August and there was just so much damage that happened. By the time that damage was cleared, and that damage was able to be cleared, there just wasn’t enough time.”

Dr. Lakes and the zoo staff are working with the city administration to make sure the zoo is safe for the staff, animals, and guests to return as soon as possible.

“I don’t want to give a time frame right now. We want to get guests back in soon. The animals miss them. We miss them and we know the community wants to get back to the zoo. We’re doing our best to make sure our due diligence is done, and we’ll get an answer out as soon as we can.”

The repairs to the Alexandria Zoo are being made possible by more than $150,000 in donations from the community. A Jack and Diane t-shirt fundraiser also brought in $8,700 in funds.

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