“We started the evacuation already on Monday, August 12 around noon, when we moved the animals to the fifty-year water level. After that, early in the morning on Tuesday, August 13, we started to evacuate the entire lower part, so that it continued until the last moment when the water poured in,” recalled Petr Fejk, then director of the garden.
Three mammals had to be euthanized by dozens of nurses for transport. They didn’t even have enough time to check how the anesthesia was working. “We fired like on the training ground. The more you burn, the more you fall asleep,” explained head veterinarian Roman Vodička.
The sleeping gorillas lay completely free during the transport on the rafts. If they woke up, they could harm not only themselves, but also the volunteers who were taking themselves to safety in the higher places of the garden.
In total, the caretakers evacuated around a thousand animals, four had to be euthanized. Among them was the four-ton elephant Kadíra, floating in ten-meter-high water. The breeders could not leave him overnight, there was no hope of saving him. For safety reasons, zoo workers also had to shoot Lentilka the hippopotamus, the lion and the bear.
The famous refugee and the elephant who had no hope
He became the closely watched hero of the Prague Zoo during the flood 20 years ago Gaston the sea lion. At that time, several sea lions ended up in the Vltava, which they treated in cooperation with the police, and the firefighters gradually captured and returned to Troja.
Gaston the sea lion – Gaston swam all the way to Germany after flooded rivers. He was captured there, but died of exhaustion.
However, Gaston could not be caught and his pilgrimage continued several kilometers along the Vltava and Elbe rivers to the North Sea. It was not until the Saxon-Anhalt city of Lutherstadt Wittenberg that the refugee finally stepped ashore. But the happy ending did not come, Gaston did not survive due to exhaustion on the way back to Prague. Fortunately, he left behind a two-month-old son, Meloun, who became the audience’s favorite. He recently died at an advanced age.
Thirty-five years old elephant Kadir, donated from Sri Lanka, weighed over four tons. He had an unfortunate nature, according to the nurses’ memories, he was quite aggressive. There was no chance of saving him in the deep water in the flooded pavilion. That is why the management of the garden decided to euthanize him. In the early evening of August 13, only the forehead, where the shooter must have hit, could be seen. He used three bullets.
In total, 134 animals, most of them birds, did not survive the high water in mid-August 2002. Some subsequently died due to stress.
Damage to the zoo reached approximately 230 million crowns. Eleven years later, at the beginning of June 2013, another big flood came to the zoo. This time, however, the garden’s employees were well prepared and thanks to their admirable dedication, they managed to take almost all the animals and most of the property to safety from the flood area within 12 hours.
The gorillas survived the high water in the tower, a police boat helped the nurses with feeding. The costs of repairing the damaged buildings reached tens of millions of crowns.
Billions against water
Anti-flood measures are still being built in this part of Prague, the metropolis is currently “plugging” the last holes that also touch the Trojská kotlina.
“The construction of flood protection for the zoo is currently being handled by the Institute of Planning and Development of the Capital City of Prague (IPR),” says Tadeáš Provazník, spokesman for the Prague municipality. However, the capital city council will still have to approve the project.
The line of the mobile anti-flood wall, known from the embankment in the center of Prague, should roughly lead in the places where the garden is now bordered by the land in its lower part. The IPR study also takes into account the change in the height of the terrain in the garden area. During the floods in 2002, the zoo was protected by an embankment designed to withstand 20 years of water. He could not hold back the thousand-year flood.
Divoká Vltava is the name of another project that concerns this part of the capital. A “flood” park will be created on Císařský ostrov, a de facto place where the river will be able to overflow if necessary.
“The goal is to improve flood protection by creating a so-called controlled overflow,” says Jana Plamínková (STAN), deputy mayor for the environment. The park will be used for recreation during “normal” times.
The widening of the river bed with new islands during the current flood will reduce and improve the flow in the river bed, which will also improve the existing flood protection not only of the adjacent districts, i.e. Troja and Holešovice, but also of the higher-lying Karlín.
“Another measure is, for example, Maniny Park – which is also supposed to be a flood park with a new river arm,” adds Provazník. On Císařské ostrov, the implementation should begin in three years, in the case of Maniny Park, no date has been set.
But in June, builders in Troja completed the rehabilitation and extension of the relief sewer. They also repaired the bottom of the river and the wall that separates the slalom channel from the riverbed.
“It was the last section of the river in the capital without major modifications,” says Petr Kubala, CEO of Povodí Vltava.
Investments in the protection of Prague against high water have so far reached approximately four billion crowns.