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San Antonio, TX (KSAT) — The San Antonio Zoo has been dealing with some unwanted guests this spring and they're causing quite a mess.
Several species of egrets and herons are nesting in the trees above a popular attraction forcing it to temporarily close.
Hundreds of migratory birds have moved into the trees above the Tiny Tot Nature Spot and the Riverbank Beach.
"This is one of the most popular exhibits in the summer," said Debbie Vanskike, marketing and public relations manager for the zoo. "A lot of families enjoy this area. Unfortunately, all these birds have landed in this area and it's really not safe."
According to Vanskike, six types of herons and egrets are nesting in the trees and they're creating a mess. The unwelcome guests have coated the entire area with bird droppings.
Vanskike said Tuesday the Riverbank Beach was drained about a month ago and the area shut down to guests to avoid contact with the bird droppings that could contain diseases.
"It's unsightly, it smells bad, and it's not very safe for our children to be playing in," Vanskike said. "It has become a health hazard, so we have to address that issue and that's what we're doing."
The zoo recently obtained special permits from the city and U.S. Fish and Wildlife in an effort to remove and relocate the birds that are federally protected but not endangered.
"The city permit allows us to trim back trees, the other permit allows us to remove the nests, remove the eggs and to deliver chicks to a rehabilitator," Vanskike said. "That's not our normal practice, but we feel that we have to do that in order to protect the public, to protect our guests, to protect our staff and protect our animal collection, because that's really vital for the zoo."
So far the process hasn't made much of a dent.
The permit allows the zoo to remove 300 birds but they removed 230 from one tree in one day, leaving hundreds more still nesting in the trees.
Vanskike said the zoo is hoping the permit can be amended to allow for more birds to be removed so the area can be reopened.
"We hope that we'll be able to clear them out but we don't know when that will be so it probably will be shut down for a while," Vanskike said.
Once they get that bird problem under control, the next step will be the cleanup, and there's going to be huge cleanup effort required at the beach-front area to make it safe for families again.
"We plan to remove all the sand that's in the beach area, to replant lots of the trees and lots of the plants that are currently in there and power-wash every single thing that children touch, so it's going to be a huge endeavor."
Zoo officials understand guests with young children who look forward to cooling off in the water attraction in the summer months will be disappointed but it's for their safety.
"We're very fortunate to have a good relationship with the city and U.S. Fish and Wildlife that they're helping us to handle this situation and be able to clear these birds out of here. We're doing everything in our power to take care of this serious issue," Vanskike said. "We're looking out for the public."
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