Climate Change Blamed for Permanent Closure of New Jersey Zoo Flooded by Hurricane Ida

An animal park that was flooded when the tail end of Hurricane Ida hit New Jersey last month has been closed due to "the real, undeniable threat of climate change."

Middlesex County announced on Monday that the process of relocating all of the Johnson Park Animal Haven's animals to new homes across the state is now underway.

The facility sits on the north bank of the Raritan River, an area that is susceptible to flooding.

There was widespread concern at the emergence of photos showing various animals at the Johnson Park Animal Haven, including goats and alpacas, standing in high floodwater in the aftermath of heavy rainfall caused by Hurricane Ida in September.

"After careful consideration and comprehensive research, and in recognition of the increasing threat that severe weather poses to Johnson Park, the Middlesex County Board of County Commissioners have made the decision to close the Johnson Park Animal Haven," Middlesex County wrote in a press release issued on Monday.

"Due to Johnson Park's location within a flood plain and the real, undeniable threat of climate change, it is in the best interest of the animals to close the Johnson Park Animal Haven and rehome them in more resilient locations."

More than 7,800 people signed a petition calling for the animals to be moved to "a better life, better caretakers [and] a safer, well-cared-for environment."

"During Hurricane Ida, all the animals were trapped in their flooded enclosures, with no high ground, shelter, or a way to protect themselves. These animals should have been removed prior to the storm hitting," the petition read.

"When community members called, concerned about the safety of these animals, there was no response."

Despite fears to the contrary, Middlesex County has said that no animals at the Johnson Park Animal Haven died during the flooding.

"All animals, including birds, turkeys, deer, goats, pigs, sheep, horses and alpaca, were accounted for during the entire storm event," a spokesperson for Middlesex County told Patch News.

"Animals were either shepherded to higher, drier ground, or moved to the other Animal Haven in Thompson Park [Monroe Township]."

However, the local group Friends of the Johnson Park Animals maintains that the facility did not have an "adequate" evacuation plan for the creatures.

"We're so happy that [Middlesex County] recognized it was no longer sustainable to keep a zoo in a FEMA-designated floodway with no high ground and without an adequate evacuation plan," Ashley Hartwik, a member of Friends of Johnson Park Animals, told My Central Jersey.

Flooding in Johnson Park, New Jersey
Johnson Park flooded when Hurricane Ida broke the Raritan River's banks last month, and concerning photos emerged of goats and alpacas at Johnson Park Animal Haven standing in deep floodwater. Phebe Khalil/iStock