AR-News: Prague's Zoo Unveils "Walk of Fame"
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Fri Aug 8 10:21:08 EDT 2003
Prague's Zoo Unveils `Walk of Fame'
By KAREL JANICEK
.c The Associated Press
PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) - Their tragic deaths from last year's devastating floods topped national news: There was Kadir, a stranded elephant that had to be shot, and Gaston, the sea lion that died of exhaustion while trying to swim to safety.
In all, 135 animals at the Prague Zoo were swept away during the August 2002 floods, which also killed 16 people in the hard-hit Czech Republic. Now the animals are among those being featured in a Hollywood-style walk of fame built to honor them and other cherished animals.
Included is a cast of Kadir's footprints. Kadir, a large older male, had been kept separate from the other elephants. He lived at the zoo for 34 years. When he became stranded up to his ears in floodwaters, his handlers decided to euthanize him.
Gaston the sea lion braved a 150-mile journey down the Elbe River to Germany. Though rescued, Gaston later died of exhaustion, sickness and lack of food during his ordeal.
Other victims included a gorilla, two hippos, a bear, and a lion.
A year after the floods, Prague, like most European cities, is in the throes of a prolonged heat wave and drought, and at the zoo, there is little physical evidence of the high waters that wrought havoc back then.
The 72-year-old zoo had been severely damaged. More than 1,000 animals were moved to higher ground or evacuated when rising floodwaters submerged half of the zoo grounds on the low-lying outskirts of Prague.
Zoo director Peter Fejk said Thursday that some damage caused by water and mud remained and that a complete reconstruction of the damage will take another year.
``We hope that by the end of this year, our visitors won't see any signs of the flooding,'' Fejk said.
With 322 animals born in the zoo over the last year, empty cages have been filled and visitors can once again spend hours marveling at the wildlife.
One particular birth surprised employees.
In June, almost 11 months after the floods, Gaston's mate, Bara, gave birth to a baby sea lion, a female who will be called Abeba. Pregnancy in sea lions can remain undetected until the end, and Bara showed no signs she was pregnant.
``We are so happy. It was a tragedy to lose Gaston. He was our hero and now his daughter will replace him. It was a pleasant surprise,'' Vit Kahle, the zoo's spokesman said.
Gaston, the only male in the compound, ``was a member of our family and he left us his replacement,'' Fejk said.
Two of four gorillas are scheduled to return next month from another zoo in the countryside where they had been taken in the wake of the flooding.
The animals had been so severely traumatized that experts had doubted they could ever return, said Pavel Brandl, the zoo's curator of mammals.
``(The flooding) was a very negative experience for them,'' Brandl said. ``They remained timid for a long time and kept moving to higher ground following the shock they suffered from rising waters.''
He called their unexpectedly calm behavior ``a great change.''
The two females, Shinda and Kijivou, are to be brought back after final repairs are completed on their pavilion. They will be joined by Assato, a 12-year-old male that the zoo plans to acquire in England.
The elephants also refused to enter their low-lying pavilion for a while after it was reconstructed.
The elephants will be moved to a safer, higher part of the zoo when a new pavilion is completed in 2006, Fejk said.
The flooding caused by 10 days of torrential rainfall was Prague's worst in nearly two centuries. The disaster killed nearly 100 people across Europe and forced thousands from their homes.
08/08/03 06:52 EDT
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