When a disaster strikes zoos across the country, John Ball Zoo is there to help.
John Ball Zoo is part of the Zoological Disaster Response, Rescue and Recovery (ZDR3) Network, which is the largest zoological disaster response organization in the United States. ZDR3 manages and coordinates the travel of experienced personnel to zoos, aquariums and animal sanctuaries in times of natural disasters or catastrophic events.
John Ball Zoo is the second zoo in Michigan to join the ZDR3 Response Network and is on call to respond to disasters due to weather, financial difficulties and other traumatic events.
“John Ball Zoo has dedicated a significant amount of time training and planning for various types of disaster responses, because in the zoological community, we take care of our own,” said Tim Sampson, John Ball Zoo animal curator and lead of the Zoo’s disaster response team. “In the event of a disaster, as public safety officials work to help care for people, we are on hand to assist with zoo cleanup, animal care, evacuations and more.”
John Ball Zoo joined the network in 2022, and it has volunteers from almost every department ready to assist based on the needs facing a facility in crisis. Staff skills represent a range from animal care to facility operations, financial management to zoo administration and even member services. Since joining the network, John Ball Zoo staff have been training internally to respond to a range of situations, so the team is ready to deploy when needed.
“John Ball Zoo’s response team and preparation exemplifies our motto: We are stronger together,” said ZDR3 Executive Director Julia Wagner. “John Ball Zoo’s training and preparation has become a blueprint for other response teams and their training. Their personnel are trained in important skillsets, and the Zoo has truly taken the lead and coordinated their region. ZDR3 is fortunate to have teams like ours ready to roll when the call comes.”
Although ZDR3 was formed just four years ago, peer-to-peer support in the zoological industry has a long history. Facilities that work with non-domestic animals have always turned to their colleagues at nearby facilities for assistance because they best understand the specialized knowledge and training of working in a zoological environment.
With an increase in extreme weather and human-related disasters of all kinds, John Ball Zoo and ZDR3 know it is important to train the next generation of zoological responders and are ready to assist their colleagues facing their worst day.