Massive Animal Rescue as Floods Hit Prague Zoo

Player utilities

Listen to the story.

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. Here in the U.S. it's tornado season, and that's been the big weather story here. Over in Europe it's been the exceptionally heavy rains. Now massive floods are tearing through countries in Central Europe. Parts of the Czech capital, Prague, are under water. In fact, swans can be seen swimming past second story windows. The floodwaters are now surging into neighboring Germany and Austria. Tens of thousands of people have been or are being evacuated, and so too are thousands of animals. The internationally famous Prague Zoo was badly hit by the floods. Michal Stastny is the zoo's spokesman. So the waters got too high for the zoo Michal? How many animals are we talking about?

Michal Stastny: Well, we can't say exactly how many of them we had to evacuate, but we have to say we had to evacuate animals including big cats, komodo dragons, lions, tigers, and so we can honestly say that it was about 1,000 animals.

Werman: About 1,000 animals, are they all okay during this transfer?

Stastny: Most of them are safe and sound. We had one flamingo who had a broken leg, but most of them are safe and sound.

Werman: And you said you moved a tiger and a lion?

Stastny: Yeah, we had to move all of our Malayan tiger, all of our Sumatran tiger, our Indian lion, Japan leopard, and all the big cats which used to live in the cat house.

Werman: And how do you actually do that? Do you have to sedate these ferocious creatures first?

Stastny: Yeah, most of these bigger creatures have to be sedated, but for example, Malayan tigers, they just needed some smaller medications and then we guided them to crates.

Werman: I mean, where do they even go? It's not like you've got an empty zoo redundantly lying around in case there are floods.

Stastny: No, we don't have an empty zoo, but fortunately we have enough space and keepers areas and stuff so for a few days we can house all of these animals in an upper part of the zoo.

Werman: So tell me about the zoo itself, is it completely under water right now? What's it look like with no animals there?

Stastny: Well there basically are two parts of the zoo, the lower part of the zoo and the upper part the zoo, which is perfectly safe. The lower part of zoo is flooded more than 80 or 90%. You can see just roofs of buildings, and it's really like flooded. Not destroyed, we can't see any things like that because of course they are still in water. It's just how it appears under the water.

Werman: I'm just curious, when did you decide to actually evacuate the zoo and how much time did you have before that lower part of the zoo got inundated?

Stastny: We decided to move the first species on Sunday afternoon. And so we started and we have been working all night long. And then as the water was rising we just had to continue.

Werman: And Michal, I'm just thinking, the zoo probably doesn't have a staff to undertake something like this. Did you have to get volunteers?

Stastny: Not yet, our staff, all of them are professionals and not just keepers were doing this kind of stuff. For example, I drive the car with monkeys. So basically everyone there has that job and that's what we really appreciated, all of our colleagues.

Werman: Alright, Michal Stastny, the spokesman for the Prague Zoo. Thanks for speaking with us.

Stastny: Thank you.

Werman: You can see some great pictures from this heroic animal rescue at