Sunday, September 11, 2005

Not Just Human Are Being Rescued; Living Creatures Are Also Being Rescued

I have a deep love for sealife and sea creatures. I was devastated to read about the fate of some of the sea creatures. I'm really glad that other aquariums, zoos, and facilities are helping out by taking in creatures for the time being. The same goes for animals.

-S


Aquarium animals to be airlifted out of New Orleans
Most of facility's 10,000 fish did not survive Hurricane Katrina


Friday, September 9, 2005; Posted: 7:48 p.m. EDT (23:48 GMT)

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- 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, she said.

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 River.

The survival of the rare, leafy and weedy sea dragons from Australia was 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 Mongabay.com:

"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 Species.

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 Association.

The majority of the zoo collection, however, will stay at the facility.

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.

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Dolphins, Sea Lions Missing From Mississippi Aquarium

(Sept. 5) - In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, many pet owners are searching for beloved dogs and cats, or caring for their injuries. But Dr. Moby Solangi, owner and director of the Marine Life Oceanarium in Gulfport, Miss., is in a race against time to save seven dolphins and seven sea lions swept away in the storm.

Solangi estimates his missing mammals can only survive about a week to 10 days out of captivity because they will have trouble finding food. He has said he won't rest until he finds them.

"These are domesticated animals and some are captive-borns, and they don't have the hunting skills," he said.

Dolphins in the Hotel Swimming Pool

Once Solangi realized how severe Katrina was going to be, he moved as many of his 14 dolphins as time allowed to hotels on higher ground. Three took up residence in the pool at Gulfport's Best Western, and the other three made the pool at the Holiday Inn their home during the storm. They've all since been transferred to the Gulfarium, an aquarium in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

The remaining eight stayed behind at the aquarium's pool "that has survived every hurricane, including Camille, and survived [Katrina] as well, but didn't survive the 40-foot tidal wave," Solangi said.

That wave swept away all eight dolphins.

So far, only one has been found -- a baby dolphin was rescued from a muddy pool in a nearby golf course. The baby, doing just fine, was sent to Panama City, Fla.

Solangi and his team have been searching for the missing dolphins by going out in boats and using high-pitched training whistles. The hope is that the dolphins will hear the familiar whistle and surface.

'We Found Sea Lions All Over the Place'

Since sea lions don't require water, nine of them -- again, as many as time allowed -- were evacuated from the aquarium to a warehouse, where they rode out the storm sitting in crates. But the rest were swept away into the floodwaters when Katrina hit.

As of now, eight of the 15 missing sea lions have been recovered and joined the others, which had been transferred to Sea World in Orlando.

"We found the sea lions all over the place," Solangi said. "People's front yards, front porches, under an SUV."

The woman who found the sea lion under her SUV coaxed the animal into her kiddie pool, and then fed her frozen fish she had stored in her freezer.

But these sea lions -- even though they're usually docile and well-trained -- can be dangerous if you scare them, warned Solangi. That's one reason why he's looking for them with such urgency.

"These are also wild animals," he said. "They could hurt you, so please respond, let the appropriate agent know these animals are there and we will send a team to recover them."

When the Oceanarium staff gets a call that a sea lion has been spotted, "most of us are crying because we're so happy they're okay," said Elizabeth Sack, the aquarium's marine mammal trainer.

Then the rescue mission begins. They coax the sea lions into crates and move them to a warehouse.

"One warehouse that's still intact is letting us keep sea lions there until we can get them to Sea World," Sack said.

Solangi said they are still trying to figure out where the displaced dolphins and sea lions will stay during the 18 to 24 months he estimates it will take him to rebuild his aquarium.

09-05-05 07:09 EDT

Copyright 2005 ABC News.