Central Florida Zoo remains damaged weeks after Hurricane Ian


Photo provided by: Stephanie Williams

The Sanford Zoo continues to experience flooding from Hurricane Ian. Branches and leaves litter the grounds of the zoo.

Abby Roberson, Staff Reporter

The Central Florida Zoo, a popular destination for animal lovers across the community, continues to remain temporarily closed due to the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian. First making landfall on Sept. 28, Hurricane Ian’s damages continue to be repaired as staff works diligently towards restoring the zoo. 

The damage to the zoo was significant. The flooding of our entrance road meant we were closed to the public and vendors helping us repair the damages we sustained,” Zoo Director Stephanie Williams said.

Flooding caused by Hurricane Ian left the roads leading up the zoo unsafe for use. Central Florida Zoo employees were left to seek alternative ways to park and enter the facility. Throughout this situation, employees have been very grateful for the aid provided by other organizations, such as the SunRail, as they work together to provide the staff and animals with the necessities for reconstruction. 

Our staff has been parking off site, and with the help of SunRail we have been able to cross in and out using the train tracks,” Williams said.

Being a cherished part of the community, students send condolences to the zoo. Students and faculty alike reflect upon the Central Florida Zoo and wish for a quick and smooth recovery of the facility. 

I love the Sanford Zoo, so I was very concerned about the flooding and damage from Hurricane Ian. It is such a wonderful botanical and diverse habitat for so many different species of animals and plants,” environmental science teacher Lourdes Hilson said.

Concern for the animals has risen in response to the flooding and debris that still litters the zoo, even three weeks after the hurricane hit Florida

I also feel really sympathetic to the animals seeing that their houses got destroyed due to excessive water,” senior Hannah Williams said.

Fortunately, even without the company of public visitors, the majority of the animals continue to prevail and remain largely unimpacted by the hurricane.

“Aside from not seeing the public daily, most animals were not impacted by the storm. Those that had flooding in their habitats were temporarily moved to other locations,” Williams said. 

The Central Florida Zoo is a pillar of central Florida culture: a hearth of education, beauty and stimulation. Students, faculty and other community members wish for a fast recovery of the Sanford Zoo. There are ample opportunities available on an individual level to help support the animals, staff and replenishing of the zoo. 

People in the community can support the zoo by visiting the zoo once we reopen or donating to the Zoo’s Hurricane Relief Fund. The community can purchase zoo tickets or donate on our website centralfloridazoo.org,” Williams said.