Swamp Rehab

Swamp Rehab

Photo by Gen Anderson

As usual, the fall season equates to zoo staff making up for lost maintenance time in the Native Swamp and Rookery Exhibit.  The exhibit is largly off-limits due to territorial, breeding alligators and the nesting wading birds.  Most of the maintenance has to be performed from the boardwalk and a couple small access areas.  Foot traffic within the exhibit would result in large numbers of chicks bailing out of their nests in fear into the waiting reptilian mouths below.  We strive as much as possible to minimize any impact on the nesting birds.

But once the lingering juvenile storks, egrets, and herons finally leave in August, the staff is then ready to do some work! Typical post-rookery season maintenance includes the removal of fishing line, trimming of limbs, thorough fence checks, and re-opening the alligator feeding platform.

Plans this past fall went above and beyond the usual tasks and meant two months of hard labor for our fantastic Maintenance Department! From September through December, they replaced degrading banks, built bulkheads, removed encroaching, invasive Brazilian Peppers, and planted native plants. Now why did it take two months? Well, because they constructed hundreds of feet of bulkhead comprised of eighty landscape timbers, over two hundred 200 lb railroad ties, and 250 lbs of nails, screws and spikes! Just when the exhausted maintenance team thought they could finally rest, their sore muscles then had to plant a hundred twenty native plants, including a dozen fifteen foot Cypress trees.

We hope the alligators, nesting birds, and visitors notice and appreciate all the blood, sweat, and tears shed in the Native Swamp this past fall.  This large-scale swamp restoration will help our wading bird rookery thrive into the future.