In 2002, Prague Zoo was one of a number of key Prague sites devastated by flooding. A little over ten years later, the zoo again was not spared. Despite improvements in prevention and preparation, its lower levels are once again under water. Damage to pavilions and the lower part of the site has already been estimated at more than 100 million. If confirmed, the figure is not far off the one posted eleven years ago.
The floods in August 2002 were nothing less than catastrophic, for the country, for Prague, for many of its institutions. Water then inundated almost half of Prague Zoo, located a stone’s throw from Vltava River. Then, it took months if not years to recover. There was also another cost: the many animals, including birds and reptiles as well as an Indian elephant, a lowland gorilla, a sea lion swept from his pen, that were lost Then, the overall damage to Prague Zoo was estimated at around 232 million crowns.
June, 2013: the lower part of the zoo is again under water. This time staff members are able to begin evacuations well in advance, seeing the relocation, for example, of the zoo’s big cats. On Monday, as Prague awaited worsening conditions, still more specimens housed at lower levels were moved beyond danger, namely the facility’s sea lions and penguins. Damage to the zoo itself, its head Miroslav Bobek said Monday has already being estimated at 160 million crowns. He told Czech Radio this:
“The situation is very similar to 11 years ago. While the water has not risen quite as high, we are very concerned that the damage to buildings, pavilions and equipment will be almost the same to that of 2002. It is a tragedy for us.”
Once the flood waters do begin to recede and clean-up operations begin, it is clear it will be some time before life at the zoo returns to anything like normal. The head of the zoo Miroslav Bobek again:
“Many of our animals, if they haven’t been relocated yet, will have to be transferred to zoos in Plzeň and Liberec. We estimate that the renovation of the lower part of the zoo will cost 160 million crowns, if funds will even be available. It is questionable whether animals such as the gorillas should even return to the zoo’s lower levels after that. Prague Zoo is protected by a flood wall meant to keep back 20-year floods: we saw now that it wasn’t enough.”
All the same, Prague Zoo is intent on reopening as soon as possible. Even if its lower levels will be off limits indefinitely, the plan is to open its doors to visitors on Wednesday – putting a brave face on the difficult weeks and months to come.