Devastating Fire at Metro Richmond Zoo: Learn How You Can Make a Difference

Courtesy of the Metro Richmond Zoo

By Amie Knowles

June 13, 2023

The Metro Richmond Zoo experienced a fire that caused extensive damage to its facilities and claimed the life of a meerkat.

The Metro Richmond Zoo suffered a devastating loss when a fire erupted in its workshop area on Sunday, June 4, at about 9:50 p.m. The fire rapidly spread, causing extensive damage to various structures.

The flames damaged several areas beyond repair, including:

  • Home base centers for animal care, vet care, and maintenance operations
  • Storage areas for animal feed and maintenance equipment
  • Preparation space for animal diets
  • Surgical areas

“The damages range from lost veterinary equipment like x-ray and anesthesia machines to destroyed maintenance tools like drills, saws, building materials, ladders, surplus tires, replacement parts, and more,” according to a press release from the zoo. “Six golf carts were reduced to nothing more than metal frames. Our zookeeper breakroom was destroyed and staff lost personal belongings.”

The fire also damaged the barrier of the kangaroo habitat, prompting crews to install a temporary fence.

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Sadly, one meerkat receiving care at the zoo’s animal hospital at the time of the fire did not survive. However, firefighters and zoo staff successfully rescued nine animals, which were closely monitored in the aftermath.

One of the nine survivors was an African penguin, which hatched on April 21. The zoo noted in a Facebook post that the little bird was the 300th of its species to hatch at the zoo since 1996.

“For weeks, we had been thinking of different name ideas for this penguin, but none of them felt right,” the Metro Richmond Zoo wrote on Facebook on June 7. “After surviving the fire, we decided to name it Phoenix—symbolic of the zoo rising from the ashes.”

The zoo noted that veterinary companies, local vet clinics, and zoos across the country not only offered their condolences, help, and support, but also sent needed items. Animal feed suppliers also worked with the Richmond zoo to manage shipments. 

For those interested in helping, the Metro Richmond Zoo posted these four ways:

  • Visit the Zoo: Come see us! The zoo and all exhibits are fully open.
  • Wish List: We’ve created an Amazon wish list of items we need.
  • Donate: You can visit our online store to donate directly to the zoo.
  • Volunteer: Complete this form if you are willing to help clean up at the zoo. We will contact you as the need arises. While the investigation is still going on, the amount of cleanup we can do right now is limited.

As of the latest public update on June 6, the fire marshal was still investigating the cause of the fire.

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  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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