TAMPA, Fla. - Magic Esmaeili expected damage, but nothing like this.
“No, all this bamboo, they are about 70 feet tall,” he said while standing next to a pile of splintered tree limbs and broken bird cages. “I have all my babies. I say, that’s the good part. I have all my babies. The bad part, is all the work I did for eight years, one nights.”
He’s spent much of the past decade taking in and caring for exotic birds. His Zaksee Bird Sanctuary houses over 200 of them. Most were evacuated ahead of Hurricane Irma but the powerful storm crushed the homes those birds left behind.
“Pretty devastating to say the least,” volunteer Kristina Olarte said. “You just kind of looked and didn’t know where to start.”
Three medium-sized cages, primary homes for at least 15 birds, we crushed under oak trees. Incredibly strong bamboo stalks helped break the fall. No birds were hurt by the falling limbs.
“Oh yes, everybody is okay,” Esmaeili said.
The sanctuary, which runs off donations, offers birds that were unwanted by their owners the opportunity to get food and water, enough space to fly and interaction with other species of birds.
“We’ve been thankful so far that we have all of our babies here,” said Olarte.
The cages will have to be rebuilt. It will be a huge undertaking. Magic poured “every dime I had” into the sanctuary. He hopes to have it up and running again soon.
Birds that were sheltered by members of the community will start to trickle back in once their homes are repaired.
“Better than ever,” he said with a smile.
Zaksee is located at 7647 Gardner Rd., Tampa. Leftover plywood from hurricane preparations are requested as donations. The wood will help rebuild cages for the animals.