Zoo workers dig in search of prairie dogs in collapsed exhibit
NORFOLK, Va. – Workers at the Virginia Zoo are trying to help nature along by rescuing prairie dogs that were buried when their exhibit collapsed because of drenching rains.Five of the burrowing rodents were found alive Saturday in a near-hibernation state, and two more were found Tuesday. Workers continued digging on Wednesday.”They’re in pretty good shape,” said the zoo’s executive director, Lewis Greene. “They were awake, but a little sleepy-headed.”The prairie dogs’ burrows collapsed last week. Zoo officials originally were going to let the rodents dig themselves out – as some experts recommended – but started the rescue operation following a public outcry.”We do have quite a few people stopping by offering condolences,” said Alison Swank, director of marketing. One child brought a stuffed bear to console zookeepers after he had heard of the collapse.There were 13 prairie dogs when the exhibit opened 15 months ago. But since their lives take place mostly underground, officials said it was hard to know exactly how many were alive at the time of the collapse.The remains of three were found during the rescue operation. Zoo officials believe they died before the exhibit collapsed, Swank said.The rescued rodents are being kept in straw-packed cages indoors at the zoo.