Updated 11/08/2012 08:35 PM
New York Aquarium Has Damaged Exhibits But Its Animals Are Protected
Sandy left the New York Aquarium on Coney Island with millions of dollars in damage, including flooding, but the director says his staff has now stabilized life support for the 12,000 animals so that no creatures have to be relocated. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
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Sea lions seemed to shrug off the turmoil blown in by Sandy. Keepers said the cold water marine mammals like seals and walruses at the New York Aquarium may have actually enjoyed it.
"It takes a lot more than Superstorm Sandy to make a walrus get uptight because they were fine," said Jon Dohlin, vice president and director of the New York Aquarium.
Dohlin said his staff had a much more difficult time. Water still soaks the floors. Five of the six exhibit buildings flooded.
When the hurricane hit, it wasn't a pretty picture. The storm surge poured through vents, leaving lower levels filled up from floor to ceiling.
"It was a moment of feeling completely desolate," Dohlin said. "I felt like we lost the aquarium."
They lost power and the flooded life support system that maintain specific living condition went with it. That means animals like tropical fish, needing specific temperature, oxygen, salt and pH levels, were left vulnerable.
Generators now power the environmental controls. Dohlin said roughly 18 employees scrambled to save the animals around the clock for days, despite at least eight workers loosing their own homes to Sandy.
"These people are giving their all for this, worked through the most difficult circumstances without a single complaint, without anything but creativity and diligence to what they're doing," Dohlin said.
Managers appreciate the staff. The recipients just might as well.
The only animals killed in the storm were koi, freshwater fish swept away in outdoor ponds. The aquarium plans to partially reopen in the spring or early summer. There is already a fundraising effort going on online.