Zoo left without power by storm

Keeper Helena Faunch cuddles Frank the bearded dragon to keep him warm after electricity was cut to Drusillas Zoo.
Keeper Helena Faunch cuddles Frank the bearded dragon to keep him warm after electricity was cut to Drusillas Zoo.

Zoo Keepers at Drusillas Park in Alfriston were forced to keep their reptiles warm by cuddling them in blankets when St Jude’s Storm knocked out the zoo’s power supplies on Monday (October 28).

Due to a fault with a local substation caused by high winds,, the zoo was left without electricity from around 7.30am until 9pm.

Zookeepers said the power shortage not only caused disruption to those wishing to visit on the first day of the school holidays, but it also meant that many of the enclosures could not be heated causing particular concern for the zoo’s resident reptiles.

Reptiles are cold blooded creatures that rely on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature.

In the wild this is provided by the sun but at Drusillas they are dependent on electrical heated mats.

With the power off the zoo team were forced to improvise to prevent the reptiles’ body heat falling to dangerous levels.

As temperatures within the vivariums started to plummet, keepers cuddled the coolest critters until the emergency generators could be installed.

Other animals needed to be locked indoors for their own safety.

High winds also brought down several trees at the zoo and the estate team were forced to carry out emergency maintenance when a large willow branch fell within the red pandas to provide the perfect pathway out.

A spokeswoman for Drusillas Park said: “Luckily, Tibao and Mulan were blissfully unaware as they slept through the worst of the weather snuggled up in their nest box.

“Other zoo residents fared well within the storms and even benefitted from the fallen foliage. Willow leaves provided a tasty treat for the macaques and capybara, while the beavers got their teeth stuck into several ash branches brought down at the flamingos.”

Keepers also gathered up scattered leaves throughout the park, delivering them to the animals as part of their daily enrichment.

The spokeswoman continued: “The stormy weather could not have come at a more inconvenient time as Halloween Shriek Week got underway at Drusillas for the half term holidays.

“Luckily calm was restored the following day and it’s monkey business as usual at the zoo.”

Drusillas Park is open daily from 10am.

For more information about the zoo call 01323 874100 or visit www.drusillas.co.uk

For a full roundup of the storm damage and pictures turn to page 12.