Fires continue to rage across Australia in one of the worst wildfire seasons the country has seen in a decade. The fires have burned more than 8.9 million acres in the eastern state of New South Wales alone, and it's believed that almost a third of koalas in the area may have been killed in the fire.
As fires recently threatened Mogo Wildlife Park — a private zoo in New South Wales — the animals were saved thanks to savvy staff members. Some animals even went home with the zoo's director and main keeper, Chad Staples.
An evacuation order was issued for the area around 6 a.m. on New Year's Eve. Staff members didn't leave; instead, they stayed to protect the animals. Staffers first started pouring water everywhere they could, wetting everything that could become fuel, Staples told Sunrise.
Then they got the park's 200 animals to safety.
"Lions, tigers, gorillas and orangutans went into their night dens and we kept them calm," he said. "Giraffe and zebra stayed in their paddocks, but we gave them access to everywhere so they could decide where they went."
Smaller animals like marmosets, tamarinds and red pandas found safety in Staples' home.
"Any animals that we could move out of enclosures got moved out to my house."
Staples said that likely only the zebras and giraffes might have been stressed and that was due to the increased activity by staff members as they prepared for the flames.
"It was more to do with our activity. They picked up on that more than anything," he said. "For the most part they were very calm, and so was the team."
Staples said staff members rushed around the park as it was surrounded by fire, dousing water anywhere fires would spring up. They had tanks filled with hundreds of thousands of liters of water, so they were prepared.
"It just swept in and was crazy. It was truly scary, to be honest," he told Sunrise. "Thankfully we had a very good plan and we executed it very well."
He said he definitely believes the zoo would have been engulfed in the fire and lost completely had the staff members not worked diligently to save the facility and the animals during the "apocalyptic" event.
"Right now in my house there's animals of all descriptions in all the different rooms, that are there safe and protected," he told Australia's ABC News. "Not a single animal lost."
But there's no near end in sight to the Australian fires, as the news video above shows.
Weather conditions are expected to turn this weekend, with hotter temperatures and more wind. That means the zoo could get hit with more fires and the team could be forced to defend the animals yet again.
In preparation, Staples said he and his team are watering everything and stocking up on food, water and other supplies that have been donated by other zoos and friends who have followed their plight. There's even an online fundraiser set up to help the zoo.
The animals that weathered the last fire threat are doing well.
"The animals are really good and we're just trying to keep things as normal as possible for them," he told 9News. "They are doing really well today. We've created a fake normal for them."