Prague Zoo: We are moving ahead

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  06. 06. 2013

During first days of June, Prague Zoo was facing another catastrophic flood, eleven years after the floods of 2002. Fortunately, we were very well prepared and we did not hesitate to act and managed to successfully evacuate animals as well as property. We have lost only a few small animals. We removed all valuable equipment, even the signs from the exhibits, from the lower part of the Zoo.

I would not have believed that it were possible to complete such a huge and difficult task in such a short time and under such a complicated conditions. So I want to express my thanks first of all to the employees and co-operators of Prague Zoo, who managed to achieve that. They came to the Zoo as early as Sunday morning and they worked their fingers to the bone. I am extremely proud of them, and most of all, I wish them not to have to experience anything like that ever again.

The flood threw us many years back in spite of the fact that the damage seems to be smaller than we originally estimated, based on our experience from 2002. Fortunately, the water did not reach the level of 2002 and the lower part of the Zoo was flooded for a shorter time. But most importantly, the water did not flow through the Zoo with such destructive force as it did eleven years ago, and "only" flooded it.

The debris is now being removed by our staff, firemen and also volunteers. More than ten thousands of them offered help while thousands of others and dozens of companies are sending financial contributions or tools and material. Thank you!

It is extremely encouraging that, after the wave of water, we have been flooded with such a huge wave of solidarity. But please, don´t forget that we will need help and support also after the water recedes. We will be happy if you attend charity events or contribute to the Flood Recovery Account 3070207/0100 (IBAN CZ330 100 000 000 000 307 0207, BIC (SWIFT CODE) KOMBCZPPXXX at Komerční banka, Prague). You can also support us by coming to the Zoo, joined perhaps by your family and friends.

A huge pump with the capacity to remove 1,500 litres per second has drained most of the water from the lower part of the Zoo. But gorillas still are and will for some time stay in the flood tower of their pavilion. We do our best to put it in operation as soon as possible so the gorillas could stay in Prague. However, it is clear that we cannot risk anything like that any longer. We must make the same decision, which was done in case of elephants and hippos after the floods in 2002: if we are to breed gorillas in Prague, it must be in a locality where no flood can threaten them under any circumstances.

Thanks to the understanding showed by our founder, Prague Town Hall, we are now searching for a place for the new gorilla house. However, its construction should not be the only lesson learned from these floods. We requested that the Zoo´s flood protection options be thoroughly reconsidered. So far it is protected against a twenty-year flood. We understand that at certain times it is necessary to sacrifice the lowest part of the Zoo in order to decrease threats to the Prague centre or the towns on the lower part of the river; but we would not like to be scarified again and again prematurely or even for no reason.

The reconstruction of the lower part of the area lies ahead us now. We will have to make some adjustments of selected buildings and re-evaluate the usage of some elements, but the main conception is clear: small light-weighed constructions, buildings, which can be flooded without being severely damaged, or buildings designed in such a way, that they will be protected against the water level in 2002 (which is, in fact, now only the case of the reconstruction of the Big Mammals House, which is not going to begun any time soon).

It will take several weeks to open the lower part of the Zoo. But the zoological garden itself is already open since Wednesday June 5. It can offer dozens of exhibits in the upper part, including the new Elephant Valley and Indonesian Jungle. And although there is a charity concert to support us under preparation, called 'We are Raising our Head High', I can state emphatically that we have never been brought low.

We are moving forward! With you and thanks to you!