Will Peratino and his partner, Lauren Stepp, did not want to leave their Pine Island property, despite authorities asking residents to evacuate due to road damage caused by Hurricane Ian, including a collapsed bridge, and preventing the delivery of food, gas and other vital supplies.
But the couple could not leave their two lemurs and their 275 parrots, including some of the rarest in the world.
So on Tuesday a rescue mission was launched – dubbed “Operation Noah’s Ark” – to capture, pack and ferry the birds off the island, as a condition to persuade Peratino and Stepp to leave the island.
“We will not abandon them. I would never leave them. Never, “Stepp said, as volunteers scrambled to put the birds in cages at Malama Manu Sanctuary.” If you can’t feed them or water them, they will die. And I can’t live with them. “
“Malama” is the Hawaiian word for protect; “manu” means bird.
Since Hurricane Ian, birds have relied on food donated by wildlife officials, but it will soon be difficult to find supplies of fruit, peanuts and other food items due to the collapsed bridge and the island’s gas shortage.
Hurricane Ian struck southwest Florida a week ago in gusts of 150 mph (240 km / h), leaving some roads impassable and the islands inaccessible. Rain and storms caused flooding.
In the hours leading up to the storm, the owners of the sanctuary brought the birds into their home to protect them from the elements.
“They don’t know what we’ve been through here. We had four feet (1.2 meters) of water in the house; we almost drowned, “Peratino said before succumbing to tears.
“Securing all the birds is a huge job,” Peratino said. “It is almost impossible to do this. So the help we got was very valuable. “
Many of the birds were rescued from homes that could no longer care for them. Some are used to breed rare species.