Early assessments of the animals at Moody Gardens are favorable with the majority of animals surviving the catastrophic wrath of Hurricane Ike. The Aquarium Pyramid is currently being powered by generators and the penguins, seals and majority of fish are in good condition, according to Moody Gardens Animal Husbandry Manager, Greg Whitaker.
"We regained power in the Aquarium Pyramid® Monday evening," said Whittaker, who remained on property through the hurricane to care for the animals along with 20 other Moody Gardens® Emergency Team members. "We received power at a critical time and are very pleased to report that the animals seem to be doing just fine."
Emergency power was lost at the facility after the storm when the diesel fueled emergency generator became contaminated with sea water. Staff had been providing life support through oxygen tanks and air rocks. Whittaker reported that the temperature had reached 58 degrees in the penguin exhibit area. The threshold temperature is 60 degrees for the five species of penguins that reside in the Aquarium Pyramid®.
The majority of the fish that are housed in the 1.5 million gallon aquarium also appear to be doing well. There was some loss of life with some of the smaller cold water fish. Although the exact count of cold water fish that died is not currently known, the numbers are consider to be low. Approximately 10,000 marine animals are housed in the facility.
"The water rose to a level that was within two inches of the electrical power source," said Whittaker. "We would not have been so fortunate if had gotten any higher."
Assessments are still underway in the Rainforest Pyramid where some flooding did occur. The animals, birds and reptiles were caged and are in good condition. Plants, fish and structure are being inspected.
Food sources for animals and staff on property are currently sufficient. Additional food will be acquired from stores and other sources when available.
"Emergency plans were successfully implemented," said Moody Gardens President Mike Riley, who also recognized Oak Farms Dairy for bringing a refridgerated trailer for the cold water animals. "Our staff on property has done an extraordinary job. Their efforts have been tremendous. They are the reason these animals have survived."
Riley also advised that the property's phone service is not in operation. Employees should listen for news reports on the status returning to Galveston Island.
"We are very concerned about our employees," added Riley. "We would like them to take this time to take care of their families and personal matters as we wait for the City of Galveston to allow residents and employees to return to the island."
Employees should contact their supervisors for instructions to return to work once the City of Galveston provides clearance to return to the island. This clearance will be will be communicated to the media. It will also be posted on the Moody Gardens website at www.moodygardens.org and mghrinfo.com.
The Moody Gardens Hotel is tentatively scheduled to reopen for business September 21. It is anticipated the Moody Gardens attractions will reopen shortly thereafter.