Two waterfront aquariums in the path of superstorm Sandy — the New York Aquarium in Coney Island and Jenkinson’s Aquarium in Pt. Pleasant Beach, N.J. — are so severely flooded that they will remain closed indefinitely, and the New York Aquarium’s animals may need to be moved to new temporary locations.
“We have a short window of time to get ... systems re-established,” Jim Breheny, executive vice president of zoos and aquarium for the Wildlife Conservation Society, said in a statement late Wednesday. “If this cannot be accomplished in this critical period, we will temporarily relocate the collection to other ... aquariums in the region.”
A surge of flood waters overwhelmed the Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium so completely that the entire 14-acre facility was left under water. Throughout the storm, 18 staff members remained at the aquarium to establish temporary life-support systems and care for marine animals large and small, including Mitik, an orphaned walrus calf who recently arrived at the aquarium with health issues. Thanks to their efforts, Mitik and a host of other animals are OK for the time being.
Breheny said staff members at the Coney Island aquarium have been pumping flood waters out of basements and mechanical areas and working to restore permanent filtration and other life-support systems for exhibits and holding tanks. If that can’t happen soon, animals may soon find themselves on the move.
Likewise, at Jenkinson’s Aquarium in New Jersey, staff members are relying on backup generators and other stop-gap measures to keep animals alive. The aquarium did not lose any animals in the violent storm, said Steve Feldman, spokesman for the Maryland-based Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
“They’re definitely going to have to get some of their permanent systems back up and running,” Feldman said. “Their basin is built to allow the ocean to pass through it, and that’s exactly what happened, but it left behind a significant amount of sand and affected their systems.”
Many other zoos and aquariums in Sandy’s wake did not experience serious damage. The Wildlife Conservation Society’s four zoos — the Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo and Queens Zoo — plan to reopen in the next few days.
Feldman of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums said animal lovers who want to help the two devastated aquariums in New York and New Jersey should check the aquariums’ websites in the coming days for announcements about how to provide support.
“There may be an opportunity for donations,” Feldman said. “We just want to let these institutions do what they need to do to recover.”