Aquarium animals to be airlifted out of New Orleans
Most of facility's 10,000 fish did not survive Hurricane
Monday, September 12, 2005
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana - Penguins, sea otters, rare Australian
sea dragons and a 250-pound sea turtle named Midas -- all
survivors of Hurricane Katrina -- were loaded into crates Friday
to be airlifted out of the New Orleans Aquarium of the Americas.
The aquarium's colony of 19 penguins was placed in crates to be
taken to Monterey Bay Aquarium, in California. They will be
joined there by a couple of California sea otters.
"They came to live with us, and now they're going to go back to
visit Monterey for a while," aquarium spokeswoman Melissa Lee
told CNN. "We hope to have them back very soon."
The other animals will be taken to a habitat in Dallas, Texas,
Most of the aquarium's 10,000 fish did not survive after the
storm knocked out power essential for making the water
habitable, and the facility's emergency generator later failed.
Electricity has since been restored at the Aquarium of the
Americas, at the foot of Canal Street along the Mississippi
The survival of the rare, leafy and weedy sea dragons from
Australia surprised the aquarium staff, who did not think the
dragons -- cousins to the seahorse -- could survive "even a
minor fluctuation in the temperature of their water," Lee said.
"It was very surprising for everyone and also a big rallying
point for our staff," Lee said. "We had staff who stayed through
the storm and have been there stabilizing the animals and the
collection and getting them ready to move out."
The sea dragons will be taken to Dallas World Aquarium.
The aquarium's large, white alligator and eight large tarpons --
the only fish survivors -- will stay at the aquarium.
Now that power has been restored, Lee said the staff is finding
more animals that have survived.
He said the aquarium staff were not the only ones who saved the
lives of the aquarium inhabitants.
"We actually had New Orleans police officers and National
Guardsmen around, and they were given a crash course in how to
take care of some of the animals," she said.
"Even when our staff had to be evacuated out for our own safety,
the police officers were able to stay back and get food to those
animals and keep a good number of them alive."
The Aquarium of the Americas was considered one of the foremost
aquariums in the world, according to the conservation Web site
"It had 10,000 fish representing more than 530 species and
featured four enormous exhibits -- Mississippi River gallery
featuring catfish, paddlefish and alligators; the Caribbean Reef
exhibit featuring a clear, 30-foot-long tunnel surrounded by
aquatic creatures; the Amazon Rainforest display featuring
piranhas and tropical birds; and the Gulf of Mexico exhibit
featuring sharks, sea turtles and stingrays -- in addition to a
number of smaller displays."
New Orleans' other animal centers fared better, with only a pair
of river otters reported dead at the Audubon Zoo and a whooping
crane lost at the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered
Some of the surviving zoo animals were taken to zoos in Houston,
Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Thursday, according to
Jane Balentine, spokeswoman for the American Zoo and Aquarium
The majority of the zoo collection, however, will stay at the
The 211-member American Zoo and Aquarium Association has
organized a fund-raising initiative, headed by the Lincoln Park
Zoo in Chicago, Illinois, to provide relief.