A Statement from our Team

Caring for animals, especially exotic ones, is a very big job. And it’s a responsibility that we at Malibu Wine Safari do not take lightly. We care deeply for all of our animals as well as staff, and we’re incredibly grateful that our expert staff was able to safely transport our animals to safety before Friday’s tragic fire reached the ranch. Since the Woolsey fire took our beloved ranch away, the public rightfully has a lot of questions. In addition to the post from Dr. Stephen Klause yesterday, we wanted to provide an official statement on how we handled the safety of our animals in the early morning hours of last Friday.

First and foremost, we’re extremely happy to report that our beloved Stanley the Giraffe is alive and well. And while we hope to find the one sheep that is still unaccounted for, we can report that the remainder of our animals are in good hands—they’re alive, safe, secure, and receiving around-the-clock care. We are also extremely thankful that our staff and volunteers are safe, as well.

Having a Plan

In addition to giving animals food, water, love, and a clean living space, caregivers should (and are required by law) develop a plan to evacuate the animals to a safe location in the event of a disaster. Because of our geography, Malibu Wine’s evacuation plan is designed around the impending threat of wildfires. Our plan was developed with the USDA, and they also helped us train the safari staff through educational materials. In addition to drills, we have been involved in helping others evacuate animals during fires (such as the Thomas Fire), by providing resources like trailers, shelter for animals, and even by physically helping evacuate animals.

As Dr. Klause stated yesterday, our “fire” evacuation plan has always consisted of moving the larger animals to land on the property that would be safe from potential fire. How did we know this land would be safe from flames? Fortunately, this wide open area at Saddlerock has no trees or brush—and only consists of gravel, dirt, and a large lake. Effectively, this barren enclosure has little to no “fuel” to power a fire or facilitate the spread of one for eighty acres, ample space to store all of our exotic and domestic animals. This was also verified by the USDA.

As prepared as we were, we could not stop the destructive path of the Woolsey fire. On November 9 at 12:30 a.m., Malibu Wine Safari carried out this longstanding planned procedure of evacuation of animals and staff. Our animals, including Stanley, were either evacuated or moved into these safe and protected enclosures prior to 7:30 a.m.

Prioritizing Safety

While the smaller animals were transported offsite, the exotic and domestic animals were relocated to the designated land on the ranch that would not be threatened by the fire. I know what you’re thinking: Why not immediately move all animals offsite at the same time?

We had three teams working in tandem: Team One evacuated the main barn area including boarded horses. Team Two was tasked with loading small animals into trailers while Team Three worked on moving the large animals. Dr. Klause can verify that we pragmatically and swiftly addressed all safety concerns facing our animals.

Similar to what Dr. Klause said in his statement, it’s important to remember the animals were incredibly distressed. Moving a distressed animal—especially a large one, like a giraffe of Stanley’s height—onto a trailer is a very delicate process, especially since they can cause injuries to themselves in the process. There was enormous potential for the animals to sustain life-threatening injuries, like a broken leg, which would’ve only compounded our issues at the time.

It’s paramount to understand that we absolutely did not want to risk injuring Stanley during the evacuation process. Animals like Stanley, similar to horses, have heavy bodies and light leg bones. When bones break in these animals, it often means they shatter. And it's almost impossible to surgically reconstruct the fractured leg of a horse or a giraffe.

The Image Sent Around the World

The image of Stanley circulating on social media, while very jarring, does not portray the proper context of the situation. The reason we waited to evacuate Stanley is that he was distraught, and, as previously mentioned, large animals have a tendency to fatally injure themselves in stressful situations. Behind the camera were over thirty men and women keeping Stanley calm, and assembling the necessary resources to remove him from the premises.

As we embark on the long road to rebuild our ranch, we are humbled to be so fortunate, especially when the Woolsey fire has destroyed so much life. The fact that we acted swiftly, proactively, and pragmatically allowed us to save all human and as much animal life as possible—and we feel this is nothing short of a miracle.

Dakota Semler, CEO and Founder of Malibu Wine Safaris

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