Staff at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg were forced to evacuate Monday evening, but all of the facility's 1,500 animals are still inside, Ripley Entertainment Regional Manager Ryan DeSear told CNN Tuesday.
DeSear said that according to reports he has received, the building is still standing. The facility's webcam showed lights and power still working inside, but he's concerned about the deteriorating air quality, as well as the smoke and flames. DeSear said he's hoping some staff will be allowed back into the facility Tuesday morning to assess the damage.
The group said their first responders wasted no time rushing from their homes to the AEF headquarters, which is located in Dollywood, and loaded 50 to 60 eagles into travel kennels and into every available vehicle.
“It wasn’t graceful, but we did our best to retrieve every bird and then load about 40 to 50 pounds of raptor food,” they said in a press release.
Those birds are now resting safely in individual kennels at several staff member’s homes, at least 10 miles away from the fire.
An employee of AEF went to Dollywood to check on the remaining eagles in the Eagle Mountain Sanctuary. AEF said as of now the eagles are safe and hanging out in their aviaries, although their air quality isn’t optimal.
Eagle Mountain Sanctuary houses one of the largest collections of non-releasable Bald Eagles in the world.
Several firetrucks and first responders are protecting Dollywood and they hope to receive reports in the morning from Dollywood security as to whether it’s safe to come evacuate them.
AEF said in the release,”We are hoping and praying for rain to come save our sweet home in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. We hope and pray that every person has made it out of the danger zones.”