The heat exchanger, which regulates the temperature of the greenhouse, failed, Tina Rolen with Zoo Knoxville said.
“Since our tortoises are tropical animals, we moved them to other heated holding areas until we could make the repair to ensure the temperature levels would remain consistent.” Rolen said.
When the issue was found, Zoo staff had to work quickly to move the tortoises from their cool-weather home in the climate controlled greenhouse after a ranger who was conducting regular inspections of the different stations at the zoo noted that a carbon monoxide alarm was going off, Michael Ogle, who works in Herpetology at Zoo Knoxville said in the video that was shared on Tuesday.
It was decided by zoo staff that the best thing to do was to move the tortoises out of the greenhouse and relocate them to other locations, Ogle explained. He said that moving the tortoises required a team, and luckily more staff were on hand to help since “Boo at the Zoo” was going on.
Given the tortoises’ nature, they could not be moved outside. The tortoises are not temperate, like turtles native to the area, which is why they had to be in the greenhouse to stay warm. Typically, the greenhouse stays about 80 degrees, Ogle explained.
“If you’re traveling through the zoo now, you might go to the Valley of the Kings exhibit and look in the Lion Courtyard, and you’re going to see four giant tortoises,” Ogle said. “And then Big Al is currently hanging out off exhibit with Dolly and Polly, our Southern White Rhinos. Al is a big boy. He doesn’t usually see animals larger than him, and the rhinos are like ‘why is this moving rock in our barn?'”
The process took about two hours to move “about a ton of tortoises,” as Ogle explained. “Thankfully, Zoo Knoxville is really like a family. We all help out when needed.”
Since then, the repair to the heat exchanger has been made, and all the tortoises have returned to their winter greenhouse until spring, Rolen said.
EDITORS NOTE: This story has been updated with new information.