The flooding of St. George’s Island led to a dangerous situation in the African Savannah building at the Calgary Zoo.

As the Bow River spilled over its banks, submerging the majority of the island, the water level of the hippopotamus enclosure breached the walls, allowing the two mammals, Lobi and Sparky, free run of the building.

Zoo employees reinforced the doors of the building with large concrete blocks and sea-can shipping containers.

Following Calgary Zoo emergency protocol, an armed guard was posted outside of the building to protect zoo staff and Calgarians should the hippos escape from the Savannah building.

"There was the potential for the hippos to swim out of the building and into the flooded zoo and then into the Bow River," says the Calgary Zoo's Dr. Jake Veasey. "We could have had hippos 20 or 30 miles downstream."

While outside of the hippo enclosure, Lobi the hippo became wedged in a walkway created for zoo visitors.  Officials created a sandbag ramp and successfully coaxed Lobi to climb the ramp and return to a familiar holding area.

At the time of the flooding, the hippos and the giraffes were the only animals inside the building.  Plans had been made to transport the two giraffes to a location north of Calgary, but the height of the animals inhibited the move.

Flood waters left the giraffes standing in water approximately two metres deep.  Giraffes are susceptible to drastic temperature swings and do not adapt well to cold temperatures.

Efforts are underway to comfort the animals and the giraffes are receiving medical attention.  The hippos and giraffe remain at the African Savannah building in holding enclosures.