I haven’t written anything on this blog so far about New Orleans, as I don’t think I have anything particular to say, beyond the usual reactions of appalled horror and despair in the face of the immense loss of human life and the destruction of one of the world’s great cities. But (in keeping with my recent interest in animal life) I am pleased to read that the Audubon Zoo, which I visited in November 1998 on my only visit to New Orleans, has escaped serious damage.
It’s good zoo, with a speciality in unusually white animals, entertainingly enough for a zoo in the Deep South. (The white tigers are exceptionally stylish beasts.) And the zoo was in the international news shortly before the hurricane hit as the home of the kittens of the cloned wildcats. (You might remember seeing the cute pictures in the UK papers, even if you didn’t remember that they were born in New Orleans.)
When Katrina hit, a few flamingos copped it, a raccoon went missing, a couple of otters have died (the excellent Monterey Bay aquarium is giving temporary accommodation to surviving New Orleans otters and penguins), and – rather alarmingly, to my mind – an alligator has escaped, but in general reports of damage are slight. (There’s a handy article here, which reports that the Komodo dragon is just fine.)
Is it appalling that the animals are being better looked after than a lot of the people? Yes it is. (See every other blog in the world for extensive discussion of government failure in NO, LA and the USA.) But that’s not going to stop me celebrating both the good fortune of the zoo and the efforts of those who have devoted themselves to keeping a remarkable collection of animals going in what must be very difficult circumstances indeed, and looking forward to my next visit.