ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) — Although Hurricane Laura’s landfall was about 115 miles (185 kilometers) away, damage from its winds and COVID-19 restrictions have kept the Alexandria Zoo shut since the storm passed west of the city on Aug. 27.
Officials don’t yet know when the city-owned zoo will reopen.
Winds gusting up to 74 miles an hour (119 kilometers per hour) toppled 70 to 75 trees, damaging more than 20 of the enclosures where some of the zoo’s 500 animals live.
However, director Max Lakes, who started at the zoo in December, said Tuesday that it's the pandemic rules that are now keeping it closed.
Without that, he said, the public could have been admitted before he arrived.
“There are a couple of habitats that wouldn’t have animals in them, but we could open,” he said.
The city announced Nov. 30 that the zoo, Convention Hall and all community centers would remain closed until further notice because the governor had re-imposed some restrictions because COVID-19 cases were spiking.
It’s likely to be months before officials know how much all of the repairs will cost, Lakes said.
A recent $40,000 gift from CLECO will help rebuild the boardwalk around the zoo’s Australian Walkabout, where work on a flight cage had begun just before the storm, news outlets report.
Kangaroos, wallabies and emus are among animals that had to be moved to different yards or behind-the-scenes housing, Lakes said. Others include the howler monkeys, cassowary, maned wolf and green iguana.
A pair of cougars -- the only animals that had to be moved out of the zoo -- are at BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo. The cougars themselves, like other large carnivores, had been moved to indoor cages before the storm hit.
No people or animals were hurt, news agencies have reported.