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Memphis Zoo to re-evaluate severe weather protocol after wallaby goes missing

Published: Apr. 15, 2022 at 5:02 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A wallaby at the Memphis Zoo that went missing Wednesday night after heavy rain flooded a zoo exhibit was found alive on zoo grounds Friday.

The news came Friday morning after a nearly 36-hour search for the missing animal.

The wallaby, whose name is confirmed as Honey Bunch, was found near Rainbow Lake on the border of the zoo and Overton Park.

That particular area is an undeveloped, wooded area of zoo property, giving the wallaby plenty of places to hide, but the rain, which caused the whole ordeal, also helped zoo workers find it.

Footprints in the mud, found by a Memphis zoo worker, helped bring an end to the search.

“...and they said ‘that looks like wallaby tracks,’ said Executive Vice President for Memphis Zoo Matt Thompson, describing a zoo worker’s reaction to discovering the tracks.

The tracks eventually led to Honey Bunch, the nearly 2-year-old wallaby that’s to be part of a V.I.P. experience in the zoo’s KangaZoo experience that opens later this month.

“We asked zoo staff to come and basically form a human chain, kind of like a wall, and just kind of make sure the animal moved back toward the exhibit in a very controlled way,” Thompson described.

The wallaby went missing after heavy rains Wednesday became too much for the zoo’s nearby spillway, commonly referred to at the zoo as Lick Creek.

“Water just rose extremely quickly. And so, we were pulling animals up from the exhibit as fast as we could,” Thompson recalled. “One of the animals became unaccounted for.”

Thompson said now that Honey Bunch has been found, the zoo’s top priority is re-evaluating its severe weather protocol.

“If there’s any hint of flooding coming, we will take different actions, perhaps move the animals, and in the future we may or may not use this piece of land,” the EVP said.

Throughout the day, news of Honey Bunch was all the buzz with zoogoers.

“I’m happy,” said eight-year old Bryleigh Schroyer.

“I was scared to death. I thought he drowned,” said zoo member Marie Barnes.

“We heard about it on the way, on the way up here,” said zoo patron Shelton Todd.

“I’m glad he’s found,” said Grace Rowland, celebrating her 11th birthday at the zoo.

“The end result is very happy,” Thompson said. “The animal is alive, and again we can’t thank everyone enough for their support.”

We were told Honey Bunch is in good health and is being observed by zoo doctors to further confirm that.

The KangaZoo exhibit is a newer part of the zoo, only being a seasonal exhibit since March 20221.

Thompson said the zoo is monitoring the popularity of the attraction, and if it proves to be enough they will add a permanent exhibit in perhaps a different part of the zoo, one that hopefully doesn’t flood.

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