Storm damage temporarily closes Binder Park Zoo

NEWTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Severe storms have temporarily closed Binder Park Zoo near Battle Creek after strong winds ripped through the area Wednesday afternoon.

Employees spent Thursday cleaning up tree limbs and assessing the damage.

A tree smashed the Australian Dingo exhibit, but no animals were inside at the time.

Leslie Walsh, the manager of Marketing and Development, says the zoo followed emergency protocols.

Storm damage at Binder Park Zoo near Battle Creek. (June 11, 2020)
Storm damage at Binder Park Zoo near Battle Creek. (June 11, 2020)

“We moved guests into the storm shelters and when it was safe to move them out, we got them out of the zoo quickly and safely,” Walsh said.

The storm knocked out power, which kicked on generators for essential needs.

“We had no injuries to any animals and no danger to any staff or guests here,” Walsh said.

The zoo says the closure comes at a difficult time, but officials are trying to stay optimistic.  

“It’s hard, especially after what we faced with being shut down for six weeks due to the pandemic to now have another disappointing accident happen to us, but we’re working hard,” Walsh said.

Storm damage at Binder Park Zoo near Battle Creek. (June 11, 2020)
Storm damage at Binder Park Zoo near Battle Creek. (June 11, 2020)

The winds were so powerful that sections of the tram were blown from their parking spots.

After the storm moved through, the cleanup began immediately.

“We have transportation routes so that staff and keeper staff can get to and from exhibits and we couldn’t even navigate some of those areas without chain saws,” Walsh said.

While the damage came at a difficult time, the zoo is grateful it was not worse and wants to be sure everything is safe before reopening its doors.

“There are some hazard — another breeze or some high winds later could bring a few more down and we want to make sure that we have assessed all of that,” Walsh said.

The zoo will also be closed on Friday. Binder Park hopes it will be able to reopen on Saturday.