Zoo staff fought heroically to keep safe a New South Wales zoo boasting Australia's largest collection of primates along with zebras, white rhinos, lions, tigers and giraffes which was in the direct path of an out-of-control bushfire.
Mogo Zoo on the NSW South Coast is home to approximately 200 animals.
They have been locked up inside "as much as possible" and the sprinklers are keeping the wildlife park wet, a spokeswoman told news.com.au today.
A spokesman for the zoo said "it felt like armageddon" as the fires approached but the animals were safe, so far. Chad Staples said while they were able to ensure most animals were indoors and couldn't see the fires, some giraffes and zebras were spooked.
The zoo, spanning 81 acres of bushland and 10km south of Batemans Bay, is being threatened by the 31,000-hectare Clyde Mountain bushfire.
The town of Mogo has suffered major damage with buildings destroyed on the main street.
Talking to the ABC, Lorena Granados said her leather goods business was "now in ashes."
"Our town of Mogo is gone," she said. "We fought 'til the end but the fire was furious."
Staples, the director of the Mogo Zoo, told the ABC no animals has been harmed and the initial threat has passed. However, embers continued to fall and staff were in a state of continued "readiness".
"We have still have a lot of spot fires, but it felt like Armageddon a few hours ago," he said.
"The zoo's plan was always to defend the site, because we could make it safe here for all the animals."
"We got out and we watered everything we possibly could. Right now, in my house there's animals of all description in all the different rooms, that are there safe and protected," he said.
"What we did with the dangerous animals – lions, tigers, orang-utans – encouraged them to the night den, kept them calm, like nothing was happening, and we were able, if needs to protect them at that site," Staples said.
"The only animals that we saw any sort of signs of stress were the giraffes and zebra. But that was more to do with the activity of keepers being all hands on deck.
"You have to imagine, the smell of smoke does set animals off.
"Now we're just very much in a state of readiness, I guess. We're making sure that nothing flares up – or nothing comes from a different direction now that the wind's changed."
The zoo was built by Sally Padey but Sydney's Featherdale Wildlife Park took over in November.
A Featherdale Wildlife Park spokeswoman told news.com.au today that staff at Mogo Zoo were heroes.
"They're doing a pretty heroic job actually, making sure that the animals are being kept safe.
"Basically, they've been hosing down everything like someone would do protecting their own house in that area."
RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the fire "has spread down particularly through places like Cobargo and further south of Batemans Bay (to) places like Mogo and Broulee".
"So there's a range of different villages and communities right along the extensive nature of these various fire grounds that are being impacted already and there are also potential, serious potential with these southerly winds moving through, this aggressive change that's coming through, increasing the volatility of the fire behaviour (and) spreading those fires now to the north," he said.
"Most of our messages are about sheltering in place, and staying in place, because it is simply too late and too dangerous to leave."
Those in Mogo who had planned to leave had been urged to do so this morning.
Travel blogger Joanne Bond, who has been evacuated to Narooma, visited the zoo yesterday.
"I was one of the first cars in the car park and one of the first people in the zoo," she said in a post on her JABA Travels Facebook page on December 30.
"It's old but I was surprised with the amount of different and unique animals in the enclosures."
She said it was a "high priority" stop during her trip along the coast.
Bond saw white lions, gibbons, white rhinos, giraffes, meerkats, tigers, lemurs "and names I can't remember but geez they were cute".