L.A. Zoo: The day after


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On Wednesday, the day after Los Angeles Zoo animals were hustled to their off-exhibit enclosures with a fire bearing down not far away in Griffith Park, the animals were returned to their outdoor exhibits. The zoo, however, remained closed to the public as were all the access roads.

With veiled plumes visible in the hills, zoo staffers said animals were calm and seemingly unbothered by the faint smell of smoke wafting on the breeze. ‘Even along the edges’ of the zoo, said principal keeper Jeff Briscoe, ‘the animals seem oblivious.’ Briscoe, who stayed at the zoo until 3 a.m. Wednesday, checked on the zoo’s TWO high-profile elephants through the night. ‘They’re fine. They’re not even aware of it.’


With the zoo devoid of noisy patrons and screaming children, animals luxuriated in the unusual quiet.

-Carla Hall

A chimpanzee, toting an onion, strolled across its exhibit, past a rushing waterfall that drowned out the thud of a helicopter overhead. A bachelor herd of Nubian ibexes monitored the zoo scene from a high rock ledge while two gerenuks in another exhibit propped their slender legs up on a tree to browse. Billy, the zoo’s bull elephant, flipped a trunkful of dirt over his head onto his back to cool himself.

Normal life rhythm at the zoo includes copious amounts of sleeping and that was in evidence on Wednesday. A koala and her joey napped in the shade. Hippos snoozed. A female lion sprawled on her back, paws up, house cat style.

‘Our veterinary staff and curators are monitoring the animals but there seem to be no ill effects from the smoke,’ said Jason Jacobs, director of marketing and public relations for the zoo.

Not all animals were secluded to off-exhibit enclosures Tuesday afternoon as a precaution against encroaching fire. ‘Some animals, it’s more stressful to lock them in,’ said Briscoe. Others will go easily into quarters at the last minute. ‘The elephants had access in and out of their barns,’ he said.

The zoo has been staffed with keepers almost round the clock since the fire broke out, and director John Lewis spent Wednesday morning, shuttling between the zoo and the fire command center near the Greek Theater. It was unclear whether the zoo would reopen to the public on Thursday. Zoo officials suggest checking the zoo’s website, for information.