Fears for packed zoo in path of bushfire
A New South Wales zoo boasting Australia's largest collection of primates along with zebras, white rhinos, lions, tigers and giraffes is in the direct path of an out-of-control bushfire.
Mogo Zoo on the NSW South Coast is home to approximately 200 animals.
They have been locked up inside "as much as possible" and the sprinklers are keeping the wildlife park wet, a spokeswoman told news.com.au on Tuesday.
The zoo, spanning 81 acres of bushland and situated 10 kilometres south of Batemans Bay, is being threatened by the 31,000-hectare Clyde Mountain bushfire.
It is burning on the southern side of the Kings Highway and has crossed the Princes Highway near Mogo.
"A strong southerly change is expected across the fireground. This will push the fire in a northerly direction. While you may not be at threat now, the fire may reach your area," the NSW Rural Fire Service emergency warning, issued around midday, states.
"Multiple fires are currently burning between Cooma, Bega and Batemans Bay and a number of these pose a serious threat to life."
EMERGENCY WARNING - Clyde Mountain Fire (Eurobodalla LGA)— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 30, 2019
Fire has impacted Batemans Bay. The southerly change is expected in the next hour and will drive the fire in a northerly direction.#nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/9BH5aDTweX
RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the fire "has spread down particularly through places like Cobargo and further south of Batemans Bay (to) places like Mogo and Broulee".
"So there's a range of different villages and communities right along the extensive nature of these various fire grounds that are being impacted already and there are also potential, serious potential with these southerly winds moving through, this aggressive change that's coming through, increasing the volatility of the fire behaviour (and) spreading those fires now to the north," he said.
"Most of our messages are about sheltering in place, and staying in place, because it is simply too late and too dangerous to leave."
Those in Mogo who had planned to leave had been urged to do so on Tuesday morning.
A number of dangerous fires are burning across SE NSW. Weather conditions are deteriorating. People close to active fires should immediately find a safe & clear location, including campers. A gusty southerly change is moving across the state.#nswfires #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/lKuEOhuqQk— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 31, 2019
The zoo was built by Sally Padey but Sydney's Featherdale Wildlife Park took over in November.
"They will honour my legacy and do it proud," Ms Padey told ABC at the time.
"How I am going to drive out the driveway that final time? I don't know."
A Featherdale Wildlife Park spokeswoman told news.com.au today that zookeeper and Director of Life Sciences, Chad Staples, was onsite at Mogo Zoo with 14 other staff.
"He's the captain of the ship," she said on Tuesday afternoon.
"They're doing a pretty heroic job actually, making sure that the animals are being kept safe.
"Basically, they've been hosing down everything like someone would do protecting their own house in that area."
This morning, Ms Padey told The Daily Telegraph she was heartbroken by the fire situation.
"I hope they are going to be OK," she said.
"It's the worst thing to happen in the history of Mogo Zoo."
The zoo marked its 30th anniversary on Boxing Day last week.
Other businesses in the area were evacuated on Tuesday including The Mogo Lolly Shop which labelled it "that dreaded day".