In December of 2007, Tulsa was hit by a devastating ice storm, an event none of us could have predicted. Amid the chaos, a handful of dedicated team members, including Jarrod Wyatt, a long-time employee at Tulsa Zoo, found themselves essentially trapped within the zoo’s gates, cut off from the outside world. With record amounts of ice and a crippling loss of electricity, their situation was dire, but their commitment to the animals was unwavering.
Jarrod Wyatt says, “Although we were unable to return home to our families, we also realized that our zoo family, consisting of several thousand species, needed us and we all agreed that we were going to do everything we could to care for them in this crisis”.
Though Jarrod’s role at the time was a Guest Experience Manager, his journey at Tulsa Zoo began as a zookeeper, which gave him some insight into caring for our wildlife. But for some of our team members, it was a crash course in the essentials of animal care in the face of adversity.
“We worked night and day, hauling hay, placing generators for heat, quickly preparing animal diets, etc. and doing so without the ability to travel via vehicle or cart. We were on foot in several inches of ice and quite cold weather.”
After about 36-48 hours, more staff could finally return, and Jarrod and the rest of the staff could head home to their families. But the story was far from over. The massive cleanup effort began, with teams working tirelessly to remove the destruction left behind by the storm so that we could safely welcome guests once more.
This story goes beyond the historical weather event; it’s a testament to the unique culture and teamwork at Tulsa Zoo. It’s a reminder that every team member, from animal care to operations and beyond, plays an essential role in our success.
“Our nametags became irrelevant; it was the Tulsa Zoo logo on our shirts that mattered most.”
Photos courtesy of Jarrod Wyatt and Ric Kotarsky.